Escape Campania's tourist hotspots and explore the unspoilt hilltop towns and fishing villages of this exciting wine region. Carla Capalbo shares her Cilento travel guide.
My perfect day in Cilento
The magnificent Doric temples of Paestum open early, so beat the crowds and delight in the grassy archaeological site of the ancient city (www.museopaestum.beniculturali.it). If you get to Vannulo – Italy’s most exceptional organic buffalo farm – before 11.30am, you can watch the mozzarella being made and visit the buffaloes. Buy the cheese to go and feast on buffalo-milk gelato before heading south. Beware: after tasting this mozzarella, you’ll never want to eat the chilled, store-bought version again! (www.vannulo.it) On your way up into the hills, visit De Conciliis winery for a first taste of the Cilento’s wine offerings.
Armed with a detailed, old-fashioned map (the Touring Club green/yellow series is best), drive south for about 30 minutes to San Mauro Cilento, to the Cooperativa Nuovo Cilento and feast on whatever the lovely ladies there decide to cook that day, from fresh pastas to local chickpeas and vegetables: this is honest, rural food.
You’re now in wine country and can easily get to whichever of the nearby wineries takes your fancy: Luigi Maffini, San Giovanni or San Salvatore (shop pictured above) are recommended. Never turn up without an appointment: you may be disappointed as these are small, family farms without full-time guides – but that’s what makes them so great to visit. Make sure to sample the southern Campanian wine highlights: Fiano, Greco and Aglianico.
Evening & overnight
After all that exploring, head for the coast at Santa Maria di Castellabate (an hour’s drive or less from the wineries) in time for a swim and pre-dinner glass of chilled Fiano while you watch the sunset at Palazzo Belmonte. In summer you can eat outdoors for a romantic, alfresco dinner.