Cilento (World Heritage)

The national park extends over more than 180,000 hectares from the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea to the Diano valley at the foot of the Apennines. The most important individual monuments are the temple ruins of Paestum and the city of Velia from the 6th century BC. As well as the mighty Carthusian monastery Padula from the 14th century.

Cilento: facts

Official title: National Park Cilento and Val di Diano with Paestum, Velia and the Charterhouse of Padula
Cultural monument: Cilento National Park with the karst landscape of the Alburni Mountains with the caves of Castelcivita and Pertosa; the temple ruins of Paestum such as the »basilica«, the Poseidon or Neptune and the Athene or Cere temples as well as the Hera sanctuary »Sacello Sotteraneo«, as well as a 150×57 m forum; the ruins of Velia, the ancient city of Elea at the foot of the Pertosa and once the seat of the »Eleatic School«, among others. of Xenophanes and Zeno; the monastery complex of Padula (Certosa di San Lorenzo)
Continent: Europe
Country: Italy, Campania
Location: Mountains of Cilento, east of the Gulf of Salerno; Paestum, southeast of Salerno; Velia, northwest of Ascea; Padula, southeast of Teggiano
Appointment: 1998
Meaning: important places of classical antiquity and a region of the exchange of cultures of Magna Graecia with Etruria and Lucania

Cilento: history

around 650 BC Chr. Establishment of Paestum as Poseidonia
540 BC Chr. Elea (Velia) trading post of the Greek Phocaeans
273 BC Chr. Paestum a Roman colony
1306 Foundation of the Padula Monastery
1690 Construction of the cloister of the Padula monastery
1899 first excavations of Velia
1954 Discovery of the Hera Sanctuary in Paestum
1989 Discovery of the “Doctors Club of Velia”

The gods, philosophers and monks have become rare

“How good it would be for me to take walks in your lush woods and along the beach! How much pleasure I would have had in the discussions that we usually have with friends in the shadow of the Porta Rosa or at the foot of the Temple of Athena! «Wrote the Roman consul and state philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero – shortly before his murder – wistfully to Caius Trebatius Testa in Velia. Cicero would have preferred to be where he usually spent his holidays than in Rome, where everything was turning for the worse. The occasion for the letter to the “very learned friend” who traded with Africa and Corsica was a dream: “I dreamed that the Romans had finally made their way into political institutions like yours and that people of the highest esteem were like you who were philosophers. «Nobody intrigued selfishly against the state, the young people studied diligently, the brothels emptied, “certain needs were satisfied freely and without money haggling.” At the end of this dream of the perfect democratic polity, the sea appeared. Then he understood, according to Cicero, that he had not dreamed of Rome, but of Velia.

Now philosophers and exemplary rulers have become rare in this area as well. Velia itself, the ancient Elea, is today an impressive excavation site in the Cilento and Vallo di Diano National Park, even if not very much noticed by the general public. According to pharmacylib, from the point of view of Italy connoisseurs, it is difficult to understand that this park is (still) little known despite its unusual natural and cultural wealth. Perhaps it has to do with the abundance of sights on the Apennine Peninsula, perhaps also with the distance from attractive Rome and Naples. Elsewhere, the Certosa di San Lorenzo monastery, also known as the Charterhouse of Padula, would be a top tourist attraction, but only a few visitors get lost here today. In this largest monastery complex in southern Italy, which comprises 320 rooms and halls, It is said that in 1534 an omelette made from a thousand eggs was prepared for the Habsburg emperor Charles V, who was always on the move with his entourage in his vast empire. And reports of further feasts seem credible to those who walk through the huge kitchen. But aren’t the Carthusians a reserved and contemplative order that obliges its members to be silent and humble? Yes, but the Padula Charterhouse is something special, as sons from wealthy families lived and prayed there. The cells of the baroque redesigned complex therefore resemble princely apartments with their own small garden or loggia. In the refectory, the monks were not only stimulated by the texts read aloud at dinner, but also by a mural of the “Wedding at Cana”.

Just outside the national park is a well-known ancient site: Paestum. Forgotten after excessive deforestation due to climate change, swamp and malaria, the city, which was once founded by the Greeks as Poseidonia, was not made safe for posterity until the 18th century when a road was built. The largest of three temples of Paestum was built like Athens Parthenon in the middle of the fifth century BC in the Doric style. Although dedicated to the jealous Hera, wife of the god father Zeus, this temple is called the Temple of Poseidon. The god who stirs up or calms the sea seems to have been overpowering in the place near the beach: The cover plate of the most beautiful preserved grave shows a man plunging into the water from a tower with an elegant plunge – a jump.