Published on: 15 January 2016 | Last updated: 24 December 2019
This section continues along the beautiful Cilento coast, passing some of Italy’s best beaches around Palinuro and the Marina di Camerota, before climbing to the historic villages of Lentiscosa and San Giovanni a Piro. It ends with a glorious descent down to the Golfo di Policastro.
At a glance
Moderately challenging: there’s a climb of a little over 500 metres in altitude gain from Marina di Camerota, but it’s not particularly steep.
Outside of the main tourist season the roads should be relatively quiet.
Asphalt in good condition.
Map and altitude profile
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|Acciaroli - Palinuro||40.6 kms|
|Palinuro - Marina di Camerota||11.5 kms|
|Marina di Camerota - Scario||22.3 kms|
|Scario - Sapri||15 kms|
This section continues along the Cilento coast combining dramatic scenic roads, attractive villages and some of the most beautiful sections of the Italian coast.
Acciaroli to Pioppi
A short way along the coast is another charming former fishing port at Pioppi. The little lungomare is one of the nicest that you will find anywhere in Italy.
Pioppi’s claim to fame is that it is the Capitale Mondiale della dieta Mediterranea (World Capital of the Mediterranean Diet) — even the gelateria on the lungomare claims that its ice cream was made rigorosamente with ingredients that are part of the Mediterranean diet . Pioppi’s claim is based on the fact that nearby Cannnichio was home for many year to the American physiologist Ancel Keys and a number of his collaborators. Keys first put forward the hypothesis after observing that Italy had the highest concentration of centenarians in the world.
While you’re in Pioppi you might want to check out the Museo Vivo del Mare, run by the Legambiente and housed in the historic Palazzo Vinciprova.
Ascea and the Marina di Camerota
Another scenic stretch and a short climb bring you to the Marina di Castel Velino (and a nice beach). After the Marina di Castel Velino, a not very interesting stretch of road takes you over the river and into Castellammare di Velia past the Velia archaeological site. Among other things there’s a Greek theatre high on a hill looking out to sea — an unusual sight on the mainland.
Close by is the Marina di Ascea with a lovely sandy beach and cycleway along the lungomare. Unfortunately, there is no through road, but it’s worth the side-trip. From the Marina di Ascea, the road climbs towards Ascea (altitude 200 m or so).
After Ascea, there’s a wild and very scenic stretch of road, lined with ancient olive trees, on towards Pisciotta and Palinuro. There are a couple of short but steep sections on the way towards Pisciotta (pronounced pish-otta), an attractive town overlooking the sea with a centro storico grouped around the castle.
Palinuro and the Marina di Camerota
After Pisciotta there’s a relaxed cruisey descent down into Palinuro. Palinuro is a bit touristy, but it’s worth a detour to see the little port and beach at the Capo di Palinuro — or you could climb to the faro (lighthouse) on the rocky headland. The Capo Palinuro is also known for its grotte (caves) - some of which are only accessible by divers. The best-known is the Grotta Azzurra.
Myths and legends
Vergil’s version is that Palinuro was the helmsman of Aeneas who fell in love with the siren Kamarotan. Drugged by Morpheus, the god of sleep, he falls overboard. He survives the plunge into the sea and is washed ashore, four days later, near Velia, where he is killed and left unburied. The Cumaean Sibyl, who has guided Aeneas into the underworld, predicts that the local people will come and build him a mound and the place will be named Cape Palinuro in his honour.
According to another version of the story, Aphrodite (goddess of love) hearing of her rejection of Palinuro, turns Kamarotan into a rock, condemning her to keep her rejected lover company for eternity.
From Palinuro the route follows the coast to the Marina di Camerota. There’s a long stretch of sandy beach and the road here is likely to be busy on summer weekends and in the August.
The Marina di Camerota is a former fishing village and its borgo marinaro with its narrow streets converging on the Piazza San Domenico In the nineteenth century many people from the village emigrated to South America - and their influence is felt in the memorial to Simón Bolívar, and the main street is named after him along with a cinema.
Leaving the Marina di Camerota you pick up the SR562 and the biggest climb of the section (537 altitude gain over 10 kilometres). It’s a great little climb with a series of hairpin bends and great views looking out to sea and over the resort, and the Torre Zancale (one of three watchtowers in and around the resort). It takes you past the Capella della Madonna di Piedigrotta (96m).
Lentiscosa and San Giovanni a Piro
Part way through the climb is Lentiscosa, a village founded by Basilian monks — Greek orthodox monks who were fleeing from religious persecution in the eighth and ninth-century Byzantine empire when religious images were banned (see wikipedia.org: Byzantine Iconoclasm). The monaci basiliani settled in remote places all over southern Italy and left their art in the chapels they built: the best known are the chiese rupestre in Matera and the surrounding area. While there are other frescoes, when it comes to completeness and the state of preservation I don’t know of any that compare with the frescoes in the Cappella di Santa Maria ad Martyres. I don’t know when the capella is open, but you could try asking in the tourist information office in the Marina di Camerota.
Near to Lentiscosa is the protected marine area of the Costa della Baia degli Infreschi e della Masseta. It’s probably most easily accessed by boat from the Marina di Camerota.
Frescoes in the church of Santa Maria ad Martyres (Lentiscosa). Photo: flickr user ‘MONUDET’.
As I left Lentiscosa, I got caught in the rainstorm that had been threatening. In fine weather this would be a gorgeous stretch of road, looking out to sea over the olive groves. As it was, the clouds broke as I descended into San Giovanni a Piro and I was rewarded with a dramatic view over the Golfo di Policastro.
San Giovanni a Piro was also founded by Byzantine monks. The monastery of San Giovanni Battista (Saint John the Baptist), was on of the leading centres in southern Italy.
There’s then another glorious descent down to Scario on the coast, an attractive village seaside village with views over the golfo.
The last section of the route is pretty flat, taking you along the coast through Policastro Bussentino, Capitello and Villammare. the road gets busier as you join the main SS18. There’s a short tunnel on the SS18 at Villammare which you can avoid by following the lungomare.
Places to stay
Hotels and B&Bs
There are plenty of places to stay along this stretch of coast - the main centres are Palinuro and the Marina di Camerota.
Find and book places to stay with Booking.com
Booking.com pages for places on this section of the route:
- Cilento Coast area page
- San Giovanni a Piro | Sapri
About these links
If you use these links to book accommodation Booking.com will pay me a small part of their commission. This helps support the costs of producing this site.
I use Booking.com to find and book places to stay when there are no campsites in the area. The large majority of hotels and many hostels are now on ‘Booking’. I like it because it means that I can get almost-instant confirmation. The rating system is also a reliable guide to the quality of the accommodation.
I’ve never had a problem finding places to keep my bike —even if it’s a cupboard or store room. I always use the ‘special requests’ field on the booking form to tell the hotel that I’m travelling with a bike, which gives them the opportunity to let me know if there’s a problem.
Many properties offer free cancellation but it’s a good idea to check the conditions as these vary from property to property.
There are lots of campsites in and around Palinuro and the Marina di Camerota (but note that most operate to a short summer season). I stayed at the Arco Natural Club which has excellent facilities but isn’t the quietest site. The campsite gets its name from a natural archway in the nearby cliffs.
I also stayed at the Camping Acapulco near Villammare, which was quiet and spacious with access to a nice beach.
Campsites map: FT-STC-campsites-mapshow map in overlay | FT-STC-campsites-mapshow map in new window
Transport and services
The station at Sapri offers connections north to Napoli as well as south along the coast. There is no other station on this section of the route.
Articles in this series
- Southern Tyrrhenian Coast overview
- Southern Tyrrhenian Coast Part: 1: the Costiera Amalfitana from Sorrento to Salerno
- Southern Tyrrhenian Coast: Part 2: the Costiera Cilentana from Salerno to Acciaroli
- Southern Tyrrhenian Coast: Part 3: The Costiera Cilentana from Acciaroli to Sapri
- Southern Tyrrhenian Coast: Part 4: Basilicata and Calabria from Sapri to Scalea
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