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Stage 3 : Vatolla / Cicerale

From Vatolla the third stage proceeds to Mercato Cilento; from here, via a long dirt road from the Convent of the Carmine, we arrive at Rocca Cilento, dominated by the Angevin-Aragonese fortress. Then you descend to Torchiara, a beautiful town nestled on a scenic ridge, and continue on State Road 18 until, even before reaching Ogliastro Cilento, a small road on the right will lead you to the small village of Finocchito and from there first to Monte Cicerale and then to Cicerale, the stage town.
Mercato Cilento was once an important crossroads for those traveling through the Mount Stella territory. In the village, one takes a side road that leads before the remarkable Carmine Convent, founded in the 15th cent. From here an interesting trail follows the ridge, with views both inland and to the sea. The road skirts the dense forest of Selva di S.Francesco and finally comes within sight of the scenic castle, to which the name of the village of Rocca Cilento below is linked. The earliest information about this locality is found in a manuscript from 1110 reporting William Sanseverino’s decision to move the seat of the Cilento Barony from the fortress on the top of Mount Stella to the hill of Rocca. The castle constitutes one of the most characteristic monuments of the Cilento landscape, perched on the top of a hillock at an elevation of 635 m. Its present appearance is the result of many remodels that virtually erased the Norman structures, with the lowering of towers and opening of windows. Leaving Rocca Cilento on the road you pass the ancient Convent of St. Francis, founded in 1417 by St. Bernardine of Siena with the help of some local noble families. The structure was expanded from 1565 and in 1640 it became a novitiate house and remained so until 1727.
The cloister is characterized by the unique porch supports, which have obvious out-of-plumbs. Interesting was the convent’s water supply system, which resorted to a series of masonry canals that conveyed water from the nearby forest of St. Francis to cisterns.
Right on the forecourt in front of the complex still holds the two historic fairs, St. Francis and the Palm Festival.
From Torchiara, whose name is said to derive from the Latin Turris Clara, in reference to one of the towers founded in the area by the Lombards, continue for 3.5 km on the SS18, until, a scenic little road on the right, will lead you to the tiny village of Finocchito. Stop to rest on the small square in front of the church; silence reigns supreme here.
Leaving Finocchito, continue in the direction of Cicerale. The first news about Cicerale is found in a document from 1461. The origin of the place name comes from the Latin expression Terra quae cicera alit, meaning “land that feeds chickpeas.” To protect this product, recognized as a P.A.T. by the Campania region, the “Ciceralit” association has been operating since 2009, which has drawn up the production specifications for local chickpeas. The village celebrates the legume with a festival in the second half of August.

This third stage laps the largest reservoir in the entire Cilento and Vallo di Diano area: the Alento Dam. Surrounding the dam is the Fiume Alento Oasis, a Site of Community Importance, which covers an area of 3024 hectares and is an ideal place for birdwatchers. In the many small lakes downstream of the reservoir, in fact, it is possible to observe species such as Mallard, Great Crested Grebe, Teal, Grey Heron or the rarer Kingfisher. In the waters of the Alento River, which continues its course from here to the mouth, the European Otter has also been spotted several times. In the Oasis, it is possible to stay: the facility offers room and board to visitors who wish to stay for a few days. To visit the Oasis, once you have passed Mercato Cilento, Rocca Cilento and Torchiara, you will have to head toward Prignano Cilento continuing on SP113 until you reach the Invaso. You can then reach Cicerale by tackling one of the toughest climbs of the entire route.