Centola - Palinuro, Province of Salerno, Campania

One of the 80 communes of the Cilento - Vallo di Diano National Park, Centola comprises a number of different boroughs, with most of the population moving in the summer to Palinuro, the largest centre and among the most renowned seaside resorts in southern Italy for its clean waters, wide beaches and astounding coastline landscapes of high cliffs and grottos.


  • Altitude: 336 a.s.l (Centola)
  • Population: about 4800 inhabitants
  • Zip/postal code: 84051
  • Dialing Area Code: +39 0974
  • Patron Saint: St. Apollonio
  • Frazioni & Localities: Caprioli, Foria (consisting of the 4 hamlets of Casal di Basso, Casal di Mezzo, Casalicchio and Casal di Sopra), Palinuro, San Nicola, San Severino


Palinuro takes its name from Aeneas' helmsman (Palinouros in Greek); a prophecy had announced to Aeneas that before reaching their new promised land, Latium, one of the Trojans would have to die; Venus, Aeneas' mother, offers to Neptune the death of Palinurus. The Trojans were just in sight of the Italian coast, rounding present Cape Palinuro, when Hypnos (Somnus for the Romans), the mythological god of sleep, coming down from the Olympus to fulfill the prophecy, appeared to the unfortunate helmsman disguised as his friend Forbante, and lured him to sleep with sweet words promising he would maintain the helm for him - from the 5th Book of the Eneid "Iaside Palinure, ferunt ipsa aequora classem, aequatae spirant aurae, datur hora quieti. Pone caput fessosque oculos furare labori. Ipse ego paulisper pro te tua munera inibo".

As soon as Palinurus fell asleep, Hypnos threw him into the waters, where he swam for 3 days, until he was able to reach the coast of Lucania, only to be killed by the native tribes. During his descent in the Underworld, Aeneas met Palinurus, who begged him for a decent burial of his body, a promise that Aeneas would fulfill burying his friend on the promontory that now bears the helmsman's name.

What to see

  • The historical center of Centola, a maze of picturesque alleys, with a belltower of the year 893 AD, a Capuchin Convent of the early 17th century and the church of San Nicola di Mira, in the baroque style.
  • The medieval borough of San Severino, abandoned for over 5 decades now and a picturesque "ghost town". It is situated on a rocky spur, rising almost vertically over the Mingardo river. Originally built by the Languebards in a domineering position, over a rocky spur as a checkpoint of the whole valley of the Mingardo river.
  • 7 km from Centola, the town of Palinuro in the northern part of the promontory, a renowned Blue Flag resort - the blue flag is a quality award given by the FEE, Foundation for Environmental Education, to European coastal resorts that show excellence of service, water quality and clean beaches.
  • Cape Palinuro, a limestone promontory jutting onto the sea for 2 km, with its tip called Punta del Telegrafo at 203 mt above sea level; the area is among the main sites of marine speleology in the Mediterranean, as well as of marine biology for the presence of a great variety of endemic species, some of them existing in other parts of the world only in the depths of the oceans.
  • The Palinuro Caves: 35 grottoes and submerged caves have so far been discovered, the most famous are Grotta Azzurra, Grotta d'Argento, Grotta dei Monaci, Grotta del Sangue. In many of them archaeological items were found, especially in the Grotta delle Ossa, which was possibly a settlement of prehistoric man. On the bottoms of many caves there are thermal springs which generate movements and vapours of great beauty, as in the Sala della Neve, accessible only to scuba divers, where the phenomenon creates the impression of a snowfall.
  • The main thermal cave, Cala Fetente, 300 mt long; the name refers to the rotten-egg odour caused by the hydrogen sulphide vapours; the first 20 mt of the grotto are accessible on foot as far as the beginning of a long lake. The walls of the cave are white, and a perennial jut of opalescent thermal water flows from the bottom to the surface, always keeping separate from the surrounding sea water. Immersion in the grotto is reserved to expert diving speleologists.
  • The Cilento - Vallo di Diano National Park, comprising areas of great variety, with an uncontaminated hinterland, often only reachable through trekking paths, covered of Maquis shrubland vegetation. Endemic species can only be found here, as the "Primula Palinuri Petagna" a protected species, considered by botanists the ancestral species from which all European primroses derived.

How to get there

    the nearest train station is Pisciotta-Palinuro; by car, motorway A3 Salerno/Reggio Calabria, exit Battipaglia then state road SS 18 towards Agropoli then at Futani state road SS 447 direction Palinuro; by sea, the nearest port is Marina di Camerota

Where to stay

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Provinces of Campania
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