The Southern Tyrrhenian coast: Part 4 Basilicata and Calabria from Sapri to Scalea

Published on:  | Last updated: 8 February 2018

Basilicata coast on the SS18 heading for Maratea

Basilicata coast on the SS18 heading for Maratea

The final section is the shortest but possibly the most dramatic as you follow the road along the coast of Basilicata before reaching Praia a Mare in Calabria.

At a glance

Distance

50 kilometres

Difficulty/​Terrain

Moderately challenging. There's quite a lot of climbing on this section, but none of the climbs are long or steep.

Traffic

Outside of the main tourist season this road should be pretty quiet, but the Basilicata section of the SS18 is known as being a great scenic stretch of road, it could get busier during the main tourist season.

Surface

Tarmac in good condition.

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Distances
Sapri - Maratea 15 kms
Maratea - Praia a Mare 17 kms
Praia a Mare - San Nicola Arcella 11 kms
San Nicola Arcella - Scalea 7 kms
Campania: the coast road south of Sapri

Campania: the coast road south of Sapri

This final section is the shortest, but quite possibly the most spectacular of the whole route. The ride from Sapri to the Marina di Maratea is only about 20 kilometres but is possibly the most dramatic road on the whole of the Italian coast. Steinbeck's memorable phrase describing the Amalfi coast road

“ a road, high, high above the blue sea, that hooked and corkscrewed on the edge of nothing… And below us, and it seemed sometimes under us, a thousand feet below lay the blue Tyrrhenian ”

Would defin­itely apply to this section of road, carved out of the rock face, with the waves breaking on the rocks far below.

The section takes you along the costiera tirrenica of the Basilicata region (Basilicata also has an Ionian coast).

Basilicata coast on the SS18 heading for Maratea

Basilicata coast on the SS18 heading for Maratea

Maratea

Maratea is one of southern Italy's most stylish and fashionable seaside resorts. It is perhaps best known for the 21-metre high statue of the Cristo Redentore (Christ the Redeemer), built high on Monte San Biagio above Maratea. If you have the energy there's a strada panor­amica which takes you to the foot of statue from where you can enjoy the views over the Calabria and Basilicata coasts.

San Biagio is buried in Sevastopol cathedral — or at least most of him is: some of his bones were sent to Rome in 732, but a storm forced the ship carrying the relics to take shelter in Maratea where the bones have remained ever since.

Matera was an important religious centre - it's known as the Città delle 44 chiese after the 44 churches and chapels around the town and in the surrounding area. There were also three monas­teries and a convent

Basilicata coast on the SS18 heading for Maratea

Basilicata coast on the SS18 heading for Maratea

The old village, now abandoned, is on the slopes of Monte Biagio. At the sea edge is the port and modern seaside devel­opment, and in between the centro storico. I missed the turn for the centre - I should have turned off the SS18 and onto the SP3 and Via San Nicolà.

Along the road to Calabria is the Grotta delle Meraviglie ("The cave of marvels"). See visitmaratea.it inform­ation on opening times and a picture gallery.

Basilicata coast near the Marina di Maratea

Basilicata coast near the Marina di Maratea

The Basilicata section ends at Castrocucco. From here you can either stay on the SS18 - or take the the old road (now the SP1) as it hugs the coastline between Praia a Mare and San Nicolà Arcella.

Praia a Mare is one of Calabria's leading seaside resorts. It's a pleasant place for an overnight stop or for a meal. Look out for the Torre dei Fiuzzi - one of the grandest defensive towers along the coast which looks out over the Isola di Dino, and the Norman Rocca di Pietore high above the town.

Calabria coast: on the road to San Nicolà Arcella, looking back towards Praia a Mare and the Isola di Dino

Calabria coast: on the road to San Nicolà Arcella, looking back towards Praia a Mare and the Isola di Dino

This is another road that clings to the cliff-side as if follows the coast. In contrast, high above you, the SS18 strides down the coast on huge concrete viaducts.

There has been a lot of property devel­opment around San Nicolà Arcella, but there's an attractive centre that's worth a stop.

From San Nicolà, again you have the choice of either taking the SS18 or the SP1 as they descend down into the town of Scalea.

There's a station at Scalea (official name Scalea Santa Domenica Talao) with regular bike-friendly services north to Napoli and beyond. There's nothing to stop you continuing south, however, while there are a couple of inter­esting places along the way (especially Diamante) the coast south from Scalea really isn't very inter­esting until you get to Pizzo.

Options and connections

You can continue south along the SS18 as it heads through Calabria. But if you do, be prepared for a big feeling of anti-climax.

Calabria coast: the old coast road between Praia a Mare and San Nicolà Arcello

Calabria coast: the old coast road between Praia a Mare and San Nicolà Arcello

More information

Places to stay

Hotels and B&Bs

Maratea is fairly expensive and it's best to book ahead if you want to stay there. Praia a Mare offers a broader range of choice and more reasonable prices.

Find and book places to stay with Booking.com

Booking.com pages for places on this section of the route:

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.

Campsites

There's a campsite near Maratea the Camping Maratea at Castrocucco. Otherwise there are two campsites in Praia a Mare — the International Camping-Village and the Mantinera.

  Map of campsites along the route:  FT-STC-campsites-mapshow map in overlay    |    FT-STC-campsites-mapshow map in new window   

Transport and services

There's a station at Scalea (official name Scalea Santa Domenica Talao) with regular bike-friendly services north to Napoli and beyond.

Calabria coast: cyclist on the old coast road between Praia a Mare and San Nicolà Arcello

Calabria coast: cyclist on the old coast road between Praia a Mare and San Nicolà Arcello (on the left of the picture is part of the SS18 viaduct)

Articles in this series


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