Discover the elixir of life in an enchanted place, amidst extraordinary landscapes and thousand-year-old culture.
There is a place that seems to have found the secret to longevity. The coordinates for a long, healthy and happy life are well known, although sometimes the conceptual association is not the most immediate.
The Cilento, Vallo di Diano and Alburni National Park holds many surprises from whichever perspective you look at it. This ancient region has so much to reveal in addition to its more prominent traits: the breathtaking nature, its UNESCO World Heritage sites, and the small towns that seem to have been specifically made to end up on a postcard.
Just with that, there would be enough to visit Cilento and return again and again. Yet, unbelievable to say, these features don't outline its true strength.
Cilento's lifestyle is what truly makes the difference. Do you want to live long and well? Then you should definitely drop in this corner of Campania.
What is the secret that makes Cilento the symbol of longevity? Spoiler: there is no secret.
Cilento, the fountain of eternal youth
Telling about the combination of Cilento and longevity requires a step back to the 1950s. Close your eyes for a moment and imagine a little fishing village in southern Italy, with tiny boats bobbing in the small harbour and the salty air mingling with the smell of citrus fruits, rosemary and broom.
Pioppi, a hamlet of Pollica, in the province of Salerno, is where it all began. In this tiny village of the Cilento National Park, American biologist and physiologist Ancel Benjamin Keys carries out his studies, starting from observing an unmistakable fact: the large number of perfectly healthy elderly people who populate the area.
The scientist has no doubts: the merit lies in what he calls - before everyone else - the Mediterranean diet. Not a simple list of foods, but a universe made up of habits, crafts and traditions consolidated over time and developed around the community's rural and fishing culture. In short, a true way of life.
For over forty years, Keys studied the local population and came to the conclusion that the formula for eternal youth that the more than sprightly old men seem to have found lies in a peculiar, simple diet and, consequently, in the very soul of the territory.
The "miraculous" diet consists of simple and seasonal products. Poor ingredients easy to find even for the post-war population.
Vegetables, fruits, legumes, fresh catch, and large use of extra virgin olive oil, an authentic panacea. There is no incidence of cardiovascular and gastrointestinal diseases—a remarkable difference from American eating habits.
In the Cilento region, people get sick less and live longer and better. Keys was so convinced of the validity of his studies that he tested them himself: he moved to Pollica and died at the age of 100 years.
The Mediterranean Diet
Declared an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2010, the Mediterranean diet tells of a way of life that embraces both the eating habits and the social dynamics of a specific territory.
Cilento embodies such features and physiognomy to perfection and has therefore been recognised as one of the emblematic areas of this form of good living along with Chefchaouen (Morocco), Coron (Greece) and Soria (Spain).
Cilento's longevity passes through the caring for its high-quality raw materials, from production to consumption: the use of ancient grains, peculiar fishing techniques, the cultivation systems, and food preservation techniques.
A holiday in Cilento is the perfect opportunity to get to know this microcosm and discover and comprehend it through tasting the many DOP, DOC, and IGP products and the fifteen Slow Food Presidia.
Here are Slow Food Presidia sustained by the Park:
- Menaica anchovies
- Cilento Cacioricotta cheese
- Pertosa white artichoke
- Cicerale chickpea
- Vatolla onion
- Gorga Queen bean
- Lenticosa maracuoccio
- Mozzarella in Mortadella
- Cilento Cracked Salella Olive
- Gioi Soppressata
Other Slow Food Presidia:
- Prignano Cilento Monnato fig
- Controne bean
- Casalbuono bean
- Felitto Fusillo
- Diano Valley Soppressata and Sausage
Rete del Gusto, a taste network for the Mediterranean diet
As a guarantee of quality, the park awards Cilento's agrifood companies with a unique mark, a prize for their excellence and adherence to the values of the Mediterranean diet.
Rete del Gusto is another project that protects the area's food and wine identity. This special taste network brings together restaurants, pubs, pizzerias and agriturismi both inside and outside the Cilento National Park. All the facilities included offer Mediterranean-diet-inspired menus and products marked with the seal of approval.
Rete del Gusto emphasises the vital link between producers, chefs and restaurants. It is a kind of compass for better orientation for anyone wishing to know more about the typical Cilento dishes.
Cilento, Vallo di Diano and Alburni National Park
A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1998, the Cilento National Park enchants anyone who sets foot in it for the first time. This vast portion of Campania is the largest protected area in Italy, an incredibly rich laboratory of biodiversity.
Cilento is a "living landscape", vivid and vibrant along its 181 thousand hectares stretching from the coastline to the mountains. There are kilometres of beauty marked by villages as old as the faces and eyes you can meet, glorious remains of ancient civilisations, ghost towns, breathtaking monuments, splendid seaside resorts, two protected marine areas, and a distinctive lifestyle.
We have given you some suggestions on what to do and where to stay in our article about discovering Cilento. Needless to say, there is so much to fall in love with in the whole area, from Salerno to the border with Basilicata.
You can visit the temples of Paestum and marvel at how they look much younger than their 2500 years of history. Be inspired by the Tomb of the Diver and take a dip yourself. Obviously, in the magnificently blue sea lapping the coast and awarded with several blue flags certifying the quality of the water: Agropoli, Castellabate, Montecorice, Pollica, Casal Velino, Ascea, Pisciotta, Palinuro, Camerota and Vibonati.
Call in the Certosa di Padula, one of the largest monastic complexes in Europe, and explore the caves of Castelcivita. It feels like being in an enormous stone cathedral, with stalactites and stalagmites like carved statues.
Discover the WWF Oasis of Grotte del Bussento, a canyon surrounded by vegetation that passes by springs, waterfalls and an 18th-century mill.
At Casaletto Spartano, enjoy the spectacle of an enchanting waterfall called Capelli di Venere (Venus' hair), the most famous in Cilento.
Travel along the coast and head inland. Regain a gentle pace, which is the most appropriate for such a place, move around as much as possible on foot or by bicycle, stop to talk with the locals and devote yourself to eating well.
The park offers plenty of places to try the famous Cilento "longevity cuisine", from starred restaurants to small taverns. By the end of your holiday, you'll definitely feel younger.