In Castellabate there are three seaside hamlets. The first is the hamlet of Santa Maria which surrounds Lago beach, was called Conca in ancient times. From its sandy shore, very popular in the summer season thanks to the many world-class tourist facilities, a dirt road leads to Punta Tresino. The Achaeans who founded Poseidonia probably built a great temple on this promontory, dedicated to Poseidon, which was later completely destroyed.
In 957, a church dedicated to the cult of San Giovanni and a monastery were built on this site. Set between lush hills – characterised by the massive presence of Aleppo pines – and the sea, Santa Maria is a typical Cilentan resort. Evidence of its brilliant past are the Torre Pagliaroli, the palace of Prince Angelo Granito di Belmonte (a former hunting lodge in part converted into hotel) and Villa Matarazzo.
A spectacle not to be missed is the Madonna degli Abissi, ‘the Madonna of the Abyss’ which is located in the sea off the hamlet’s coast, and the ‘Antiquarium’, with its many treasures from the
sea: mainly amphorae and anchors found in the wreck of a Roman ship that went down in the waters near the hamlet in the first century. San Marco is the second of Castellabate’s seaside hamlets that we encounter on our way from Agropoli. It is older than Santa Maria. The Archaeological Museum of Paestum contains numerous artefacts that were discovered here. It is highly likely, in fact, that today’s hamlet was built on the site of the ancient ‘Citadel’. Under Roman rule, it was selected by the Roman patriciate as their summer resort.
The beautiful port is all that remains of the Greco-Roman splendour. In the area overlooking the coast (the Castelsandra hill), we find a natural park with lush vegetation. If we go deeper into the pinewoods and follow the path set in the shade of the tall pines, within just a few minutes we find one of the most beautiful and striking sites of the entire Cilentan coast: Punta Licosa, recently named as a protected marine area. Pliny and Strabo say the hill is named after the siren, Leucosia, whose attempt in vain to seduce Odysseus is told in Part XII of the Odyssey.
Remains of plastered walls have been found on the islet, which disappear from view when the sea is rough. Leaving Punta Licosa behind, the coast begins to slope towards the watchtower, built by Joachim Murat in the French period, to flatten out again at the hamlet of Ogliastro Marina, an old fishing hamlet that still has its peculiar beach of seaweed. On a wide plateau at 278 metres above sea level rises the magnificent village of Castellabate, founded gradually around the Castrum Abbatis, the castle of the abbot, built by San Costabile Gentilcore.
With the building of the castle, Castellabate underwent, between the 11th and 15th century, a period of great splendour, becoming the most important estate of Cilento. The old centre has preserved the outlines of a typical medieval village, with some residences dating back to the 17th century. In particular the Palazzo Perrotta and Palazzo Iaquinta are worth a visit for theirwealth of works of art. The feather in the town’s cap is the church of Santa Maria de Gulia, built in the 12th century and promoted to the rank of Papal Basilica in 1988.
Images: de maio