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Ascea is a small town on the west coast of southern Italy, approx. 80 km south of Salerno and 140 km south of Napoli (Naples). It is a town of two halves, the larger and more tourist-focused Ascea marina on the flat land by the coast and the smaller, more relaxed Ascea paese (countryside) on the hill. Ascea Paese, where the Wassard Elea apartments are situated, is located at an altitude of approx. 230 meters with a view of the sea and olive groves. There is an old part or centro storico with narrow streets and 17th century houses.
Within a few minutes walk from the apartments are grocery stores, butcher shops, a fishmonger, a hardware store, a florist, a chemist/pharmacy, cafés which sell light meals as well as drinks, and an osteria for more formal meals, which is mostly open in the summer and at weekends. There is a beautiful walk called the Aurella path, which takes you down through olive groves to the marina and beach (you will need hiking shoes, water and appropriate sun protection for the time of year). The route takes about 30 minutes to descend and about 1 hour to ascend. If you are in a good state of fitness you can probably do it much faster!
The slideshow below gives an impression of Ascea:
Ascea combines the best that the south of Italy has to offer – great weather, good food, mountains, sea and tranquillity, while also being in the heart of a culturally and historically fascinating area which can truly be described as a crossroads for civilisations. In July and August, the temperature is consistently in the 30s centigrade , and the marina in particular becomes very popular with families of Italian tourists because of the 5 km of blue flag beach. Outside those months, it is a slow-paced, farming-focused small town/ large village with an extremely relaxed style of life, a peaceful atmosphere, an extensive, quiet and beautiful beach where the water is great for swimming, and stunning natural surroundings. Sea turtles lay eggs on the beach, swallows swoop around the old buildings and it is simply a wonderful place to be.
Ascea’s history is rich and fascinating. Ascea is the name of the modern town, but in the past it was the ancient Greek colony Elea, founded in the 6th century B.C. Elea was the home of the pre-Socratic philosophers Parmenides and Zeno. Later, in Roman times, the town was known as Velia. The excavations at Elea/Velia are open to visitors year-round and are well worth a visit to anyone even slightly interested in archaeology and history – the setting is truly romantic, with a walk up the hill through the ruins ending at an amphitheatre and the medieval tower.
The Cilento National Park
Ascea is part of the Cilento National Park (Parco Nazionale del Cilento e Vallo di Diano), an area which is little-known either within or outside Italy, and as a result, has not suffered from overwhelming tourist numbers. This article said: ” Cilento is basically Amalfi, only with more trees and fewer tourists.” which sounds like a fair description to us! Cilento is ‘authentic Italy’, a slow-paced, rural place where tourism, farming, food cultivation and fishing are the main activities, and quality of life (and food) is high on the agenda. There is little about the Cilento in English on the internet, but here are a couple of articles that give an impression of the area:
The Cilento park is on the UNESCO World Heritage List for its historical and cultural significance. It has long been a crossroads of culture: Greek, Lucanian, Italian, Roman, Norman and North African peoples have all left their mark in culture and buildings. A common sight are the guard towers dotted picturesquely around the area, such as the one which crowns the Elea/ Velia archaeological area.
There are many important archaeological areas, beautiful natural areas of mountains, hills and coast, and of course many local delicacies to enjoy. Specialities of the area include mozarella, ricotta, buffalo milk ice-cream at Tenuta Chirico, white figs in season, tomatoes, chickpeas from Cicerale and fusili from Fellito. During the months of July to early September, tiny towns on the coast and in the mountains come alive with sacred and secular night-time festivals that are both great fun for visitors, and authentically important events for locals. Two of the most famous non-religious festivals are Mojoca Street Artists’ festival in Moio della Civitella in July and Festa della Musica Antica (folk music) in early September. If you want to explore further afield to make the most of your stay, a car is very useful, especially in order to get inland. Some of the many places of interest include:
Elea/ Velia UNESCO world heritage site
Paestum UNESCO world heritage site
Certosa di Padula UNESCO world heritage site
San Severino, a ‘ghost town’ in a fantastic location
There is much more to the Cilento than these few examples – you can find out more on this English-language website : https://cilentofortravellers.com/ or contact us for suggestions based on your interests.
Exploring food and culture during your stay
If you are staying for a longer period and would like to explore the region’s food, history, culture or nature in more depth, we can put you in touch with local guides. As a starting point, Gisella Forte is an English-speaking tour guide: https://cilentofortravellers.com/ is her website, where you can find descriptions of some of the places she can arrange visits to. Antonio Isabella is a photographer and chef who can arrange visits and experiences – for example, grape harvesting, or wine-tasting – as well as private chef experiences (where he comes and prepares an Italian meal for you in your apartment). Contact us if you would like to know more about either of these possibilities or contact them directly via their websites – we are not acting as an agency and will not charge a fee for this.