Castelnuovo Cilento, Italy

If you read yesterday’s post, you know that Castelnuovo Cilento is our sister town. It is where people would go when the pirates raided the beach towns below. It is located in Campania and in the Cilento National Park of Italy. It is high up on a mountain top and has ancient fortified castle walls around it. Inside its walls is a church and restaurant. Just outside is a small town. The road up is steep, winding and in need of some repairs. We had read about a festival featuring Cilento foods in this castle. We went up around 7:30 pm thinking it would be going on. It was just being setup. We learned it was going to start around 10 or 11.

We met a man setting up for the festival that owned the restaurant/bar within the castle walls. His restaurant was closed for the season (it closed September 1st). He actually opened his restaurant and gave us a tour. He had a wonderful bar and decks with magnificent views of the valley below. It totally amazes us the friendliness and warmth of these people. We vowed to return next trip for dinner.

All that was left was the steep downhill road home. At the bottom we relaxed a little and continued to our home.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Campania, Castelnuovo Cilento, Cilento, Eating Italian, Europe, Festivals, General Travel, Italy, Mountain Towns, Small Towns | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Velina Castelnuovo Cilento, Italy

Our second home is in Italy. The town is a little confusing. It is called Velina but it is part of the next town called Castelnuovo Cilento. It is in The Cilento national Park and the Province of Campania. The whole area is referred to as Casal Velino which is a mountain town nearby and has a beach town called Marina Casal Velino. People in the Amalfi Coast area never  heard of our town. Only those that vacation here in the summer know of this area. There is good train service into Valo Scalo or Ascea. The Valo Scalo train station is called Vallo della Lucania which is a nearby town with a college and good hospital. The train is actually in the town of Valo Scalo.

Our town has two main streets. One is the road that runs from Valo Scalo to Ascea. In our town it is loaded with stores. Beach shops, clothing stores, shoe stores, fruit and vegetable stands, pastry shops, chocolate shops, bread stores, mozzarella stores, bars and delis. From this street another main street goes off to Casal Velino and Marina Casal Velino. This street has several bars, a used car lot, supermarket, laundry and furniture store.

Tourists don’t usually come to our town even though two great beaches are less than 2 miles away. Our town does have an Agroturismo or family run farmhouse hotel. These are great in Italy. They grow organic vegetables and fruits and raise organic animals for meat. They have a big store to sell their produce to the public. They also have a hotel. Rooms are clean and breakfast is usually included. Tourists do wonder here since the rooms are cheaper than the beach hotels.

All in all the town of Velina is a great place to live. You have everything you need in the town. The beaches are close by and there are many mountain towns a short drive away. There are good highways into this area from the south or the north (Rome, Naples and Salerno). There are the ancient Greek ruins of Paestum and Velia close by. Restaurants are very good and abundant. The drive from the Rome Airport is only 4 hours.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Amalfi Coast, Ascea, Bars, Beaches, Bread, Campania, Casal Velino, Chocolate, Cilento, Europe, General Travel, Hotels, Italy, Mountain Towns, Naples, Owning a home in Italy, Paestum, Rome, Salerno, Small Towns, Trains, Velia, Velina | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ascea, Italy

Another beach town near us and just south of Marina Casal Velino (see yesterday’s BLOG) is Ascea. Ascea has beautiful beaches as well. There are rocks by the water but they are beautiful. They have a dark grey color with white stripes running through them. When wet they look polished. Jo Anne collected a lot of them at this beach. Like Marina Casal Velino, there are free beaches and paid clubs. The clubs offer umbrellas, lounge chairs and a table for your admission. The food you can order is wonderful.

Ascea

From the water as you look back, all you see are mountains. The land here is rugged down to the coast. As can be seen in the picture above, the beaches can get crowded. There is a street that runs along the water with ample parking. If you take this street south to the end (it becomes a dirt road), it ends in a parking lot. The beach here is a club and is the last beach south in Ascea.

The city is about 14 sq. miles and has a population of almost 6,000. In the summer, especially August, there are many more people here. There is a train station in the center of town that links the north from Salerno and Naples and the south to Sicily. As in all Italian cities, there are plenty of bars and restaurants. There are also hotels and B&Bs here.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Italy, General Travel, Campania, Trains, Europe, Hotels, Small Towns, Ascea, Marina Casal Velino | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Beach Town of Marina Casal Velino, Italy

Marina Casal Velino is a beautiful beach town on the Tyrrhenian Sea. It is a small town with several restaurants, hotels, B&B’s and Pastry shops. Being Italy, it also has many bars. Remember bars are for breakfast coffee and pastry, lunch sandwiches (Panini) as well as drinks and many times gelato. We have spoken about our favorite bar for pastries is Franco’s but our favorite for sitting with a coffee, having Wi-Fi and enjoying the view is Isola Verde. There is a main street in the back of town that runs from a traffic circle south to another beach town called Ascea. Ascea is where the Greek ruins of Velia are found. There is another main street that runs along the beach. It has stores, hotels, bars and restaurants on one side of the road and a beautiful white sand beach with palm trees and on the other side of the road.

The beaches here have free sections. You must bring your own umbrella and chairs if you want to use them. There are also beach clubs that you pay to get in. They give you two beach chairs a table and an umbrella all setup. You can also order drinks and food at their bar. They can bring the drinks to you on the beach. They also have clean bathrooms and changing rooms. The beach is not very wide but nice. As you go into the water it is refreshing but not cold. The sand continues under the water smoothly. There are no rocks. You can wade far out and the water is still about 4 feet deep.

This town is very popular with Italians and other Europeans in the summer. It gets very crowded in August when everyone is off. The Italians mostly come from Naples and Salerno areas. The Europeans are mostly Germans. It is very funny to read the menus at the restaurants which are in Italian and German. The town has many vendors along the beach and closes one street each Friday for a market. It has clothes, food, household products and toys. It is fun to walk through this market and look at the merchandise which is all locally grown or made.

If you enjoy beaches and small mountain towns, this is the area of Italy for you. It is unspoiled and very beautiful.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Italy, General Travel, Campania, Europe, Small Towns, Mountain Towns, Gelato, Beaches, Ascea, Marina Casal Velino, Bars | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Velia, Italy

Velia is no longer a city. It was an ancient Greek city fonder around 538 BC known then as Elea. It was a very large city extending from the sea to the mountains. It had a tower at its highest point. From there you could see the sea in all directions and watch for pirates or the fires from other town’s towers indicating the pirates were on their way. Today this city is just a ruin but the tower still stands. You can buy tickets to tour this wonderful ruin or a combo ticket to view Velia and Paestum (see yesterday’s BLOG).

Velia is located near the current beach town of Ascea Italy. Ascea is in the southern end of Campania and has beautiful beaches. We found these wonderful rocks at the beach. They were smooth and looked polished with white strips on the grey rock. When we toured Velia, we saw these same rocks used in their construction of buildings 2,500 years ago. As you walk this ruin you will see some buildings totally standing but without a roof, others are just foundations outlining the original building. There is a forum and pathways through this ancient city.

As you walk you can almost hear the horse-drawn carriages on the cobbles town streets. You can imagine people hanging out windows or walking around this town.

Velia

This was once a major city in southern Italy long before the Roman Empire.

You can drive from the A3 Autostrada south on SP 430 to Vallo Scallo and then on streets to Ascea or take a train to Ascea. As you enter the city of Ascea from the north you can see Velia on your left. There is ample parking and a small gift shop.

George & Jo Anne

Categories: Ascea, Beaches, Campania, Cilento, Europe, General Travel, Italy, Paestum, Trains, Velia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Paestum, Italy

Have you been to the beautiful Amalfi Coast? If you are planning a trip, there is a lesser known place just south of Salerno called Paestum. Paestum is an ancient Greek city located in the Campania region of Italy. It was founded 600 BC. It is also where the Allied Soldiers landed to defeat the Germans and drive them out of Italy. It is located on the sea with Salerno about 27  miles (1 hour) to the north and Agropoli 5 miles (19 minutes) to the south. There is a modern outlet mall nearby.

paestum

 The buildings to see are:

  1. Temple of Athena –  shown above
  2. Temple of Hera
  3. Roman Forum
  4. Roman Amphitheater

These still stand and are magnificent to see. They are in better shape than most monuments in Greece. There are ruins (just foundations) everywhere. This is an easy site to get to. There are two roads between Agropoli and Salerno. One runs along the sea and has beautiful views of the sea. The other is a good road with gas stations, bars and restaurants. It runs between Agropoli and battipaglia. Then you get on the A3 Autostrada to Salerno or Naples. The sea is the Tyrrhenian Sea which is separated from the Mediterranean Sea by islands and Sicily.

Salerno is a large city with an ancient old town. Agropoli, we spoke about yesterday, has great beaches, an old town and a large city. The A3 Autostrada links Naples (and the A1 Autostrada to the north) to the south and Sicily. This area ia very mountainous with mild climates all  year-long. The mountain tops can have snow in the winter.

Tomorrow we will speak about another ancient Greek site from the same period called Velia.

George & Jo Anne

 

 

Categories: Agropoli, Campania, Europe, Italy, Naples, Salerno | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Old Town Agropoli

Agropoli is a large city in the province of Salerno and region of Campania, Italy. It covers about 15 sq, miles and has a population of 20,600 people. The city has a beach, hospitals and many businesses. It also has a railway station on the Naples line. The SP 430 highway starts near here and runs south. The A3 autostrada is nearby as well. The closest larger city is Salerno.

Near the center of town is a large harbor and a small mountain that leads to the old town. You can’t drive in old town but you can park by the harbor and walk in. All the streets (pathways) head up the hill. Most soon turn into stairs. As you get to the top there is an old gate. Passing through the gate brings you into old town. You can find small restaurants, pizzerias, ancient churches and an old castle. The castle has a moat around it which is now filled in with grass and used as a parking area for deliveries. Climbing more stairs leads to the draw bridge entering this fantastic old castle. Each turret on the castle affords a magnificent view.

The views in each direction are amazing. You can see the harbor, the beaches and south towards Castellabate. You will need your GPS to get in and out of Agropoli. There are many turns and very small streets. It is easy to get lost. Once at old town, you are brought back in time. The present time seems a long way off. Life here is simpler. Stop at a bar and have a drink or coffee. Observe the locals. Say hi (buongiorno). Italians will smile an answer you back, buongiorno.

From Agropoli it is a short car drive to the ancient town of Paestum.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Agropoli, Beaches, Campania, Eating Italian, Europe, Italy, Trains | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pisciotta Italy

Pisciotta is a mountain city in the province of Salerno and the region of Campania Italy. It has a population of about 2,700 people. You can access this small town from a narrow mountain road out of Ascea Italy. Ascea is a beautiful beach town. The road is narrow but in good condition. There is one place they are working on. A piece of the road fell over the mountain and they are cutting back into the mountain to widen it again. This is very similar to what happens on highway 1 in California. At the top of the mountain road you enter the city. There is a large parking garage on the main street. You park and walk back to the square to a bar and buy a one hour parking ticket. You can buy more than one. Fill them out and put them in your car window.

Pisciotta

Pisciotta

At the public square you can see people having a coffee and talking. It is the meeting place for this town. Proceed up the hill to a pair of steps. At the top you are in the old city. This part of the city is all stairs and lots of them. The streets are narrow walkways that are charming. We wondered how deliveries were made to restaurants here. Our question was answered shortly as a small elongated golf cart zoomed by. It did not have wheels but tank treads. It was at ease with the hills as well as the steps.

In this old section was a wonderful restaurant with views of the harbor far below to die for. The restaurant is called Tre Gufi (three Owls). The restaurant has outside seating overlooking the harbor. We sat at a table here and had a wonderful lunch. The food is fresh and delicious. After lunch, energized, we walked around this small town and back to the main square. It was time to leave this wonderful town. We knew we would return again. Then all that was left was the mountain road back down to Ascea and the beaches.

IMG_1156 IMG_1160

                          Tre Gufi Restaurant                                                           View from Tre Gufi Restaurant

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Campania, Eating Italian, Europe, Italy, Mountain Towns, Parking Garage, Pisciotta, Small Towns | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Maratea, Italy

One of the small mountain cities we visited was Maratea in the province of Potenza. Maratea is high up on a mountain and the mountain continues up to a pinnacle behind the town. On this pinnacle is one of the world’s largest Christ statues with hands out like a cross. The road up is precarious. It often hangs off the cliff on pillars. You are driving out in the sky with nothing below you. The city is old! Maratea is 26 sq miles in size and a population of 5,200. It has been described as “the town with 44 churches.

Maratea Maratea Cross

This is a city with hotels, restaurants and a great public square. It is a walking city. Cars can not go inside the old city. Most roads (walkways) turn into stairs. To reach the main church at the top of the city, you must climb a lot of stairs. The views are worth it. Walking here returns you to a less busy time. The cobblestone streets are the same the as the Romans traversed. You can almost hear the chariots on the cobblestones. Stop for lunch or dinner. Have some wine or a soft drink and take in this fabulous city.

There are good roads most of the way to Maratea. The last 30 km or so are smaller roads but in good condition. You can get to Maratea off the A3 Autostrada from the north (Milan, Florence, Rome or Naples) or from the south (Sicily). The A1 Autostarada in the north turns into the A3 at Naples. From the north you reach beach towns like Polinuro and Sapri. This is a rugged but beautiful part of Italy. Not many Americans visit here but there are many European visitors.

 

Categories: Europe, General Travel, Italy, Maratea, Mountain Towns, Potenza, Small Towns | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Choosing a good restaurant in Italy

All non tourist restaurants are great in Italy. If you are in a tourist area like the Trevi Fountain in Rome, you will find lots of tourist places to eat serving bad food. They serve pasta, pizza, hamburgers and hot dogs. Don’t be fooled! These are not Italian restaurants. We always walk around on our way to attractions and take a side street that looks interesting. You will find interesting shops and real restaurants. Next we look to see who is eating inside or outside. If it is mostly tourists, we skip it. When we find a place with a lot of Italians we try it. Italians eat lunch between 1:30 and 4 with family or friends. Dinner is usually eaten late, between 6:30 and 11 pm. If you are looking in a restaurant at 5 pm you will either see no one or just tourists. You might want to look the night before on your way back to your hotel if you are an early diner.

Good restaurants in Italy are small. They only have a small number of tables. Cooking fresh pasta for 100 is not possible. They cook well for a few people. When you find such a place, visit it often. Try lunch and dinner. Try different dishes. Be sure to tell the owner or your waiter that it was good.

Some restaurants charge extra for outside seating. This is usually not that much and is well worth being able to eat and watch the people pass by. In the colder seasons, they will turn on heaters outside to make you comfortable. If they are too hot for you, tell your waiter. They can adjust them or turn them off.

Pizza can be gotten in a pizzeria (pizza shops), ristaurante (restaurants) and Trattoria (small inexpensive restaurants). Enjoy the place you pick. Be romantic, you are in Italy. Forget your worries and just enjoy the food and people you are with. Eat slowly and enjoy the taste. Drink some wine and taste it. It enhances your taste buds. It will make the food taste better. Try the bread it is well worth it in Italy.

When you are done you can have a great desert or if you are too full, walk a bit and stop at a gelato shop. There are so many favorers of gelato, it would take the rest of your life to try them. Not a bad way to spend your time. Ask for a sample and then choose. You can get a regular cone, sugar cone or dish. Enjoy

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Bread, Cooking, Eating Italian, Europe, Gelato, General Travel, Italy, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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