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Stage 3 : Vatolla / Trentinara

From Vatolla, the third stage proceeds to Mercato Cilento; from here, through a long dirt road starting from the Convent of Carmine, you reach Rocca Cilento, dominated by the Angevin-Aragonese fortress. Then you descend to Torchiara, a beautiful center nestled on a panoramic ridge, and continue on State Road 18 until, even before reaching Ogliastro Cilento, a small road on the right will lead you to the village of Finocchito, and from there, first to Monte Cicerale and then to Cicerale. Finally, the stage concludes in Trentinara, surpassing Cicerale.

Mercato Cilento was once an important crossroads for those traveling through the territory of Mount Stella. In the village, you take a side street that leads to the remarkable Carmine Convent, founded in the 15th century. From here, an interesting path follows the ridge, with views both inland and towards the sea. The road skirts the dense forest of Selva di S. Francesco and finally reaches the view of the scenic castle, linked to the name of the underlying village of Rocca Cilento. The first information about this location dates back to a manuscript from 1110, which mentions Guglielmo Sanseverino’s decision to move the Barony of Cilento from the fortress on the summit of Mount Stella to the hill of Rocca. The castle is one of the most characteristic monuments in the Cilento landscape, perched on the top of a hill at 635 m above sea level. Its current appearance is the result of many renovations that have practically erased the Norman structures, lowering the towers and opening windows. Leaving Rocca Cilento on the road, you pass by the ancient Convent of San Francesco, founded in 1417 by St. Bernardino of Siena with the help of some local noble families. The structure was expanded starting from 1565 and in 1640 became a novitiate house, remaining so until 1727. The cloister is characterized by the unique supports of the portico, which show evident signs of being out of plumb. The convent’s water supply system was interesting, using a series of masonry channels that conveyed water from the nearby Selva di S. Francesco to cisterns. Right on the square in front of the complex, the two historic fairs, that of San Francesco and that of the Palms, are still held.

From Torchiara, whose name is derived from the Latin Turris Clara, referring to one of the towers founded in the area by the Lombards, continue for 3.5 km on SS18 until, with a panoramic road on the right, you reach the tiny village of Finocchito. Stop to rest in the square in front of the church; here, silence reigns supreme. After leaving Finocchito, continue towards Cicerale. The first information about Cicerale is found in a document from 1461. The origin of the name derives from the Latin expression Terra quae cicera alit, meaning “land that nourishes 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 developed the production regulations for local chickpeas. The village celebrates the legume with a festival in the second half of August.

This third stage skirts the largest reservoir in the entire Cilento and Vallo di Diano territory: the Alento Dam. Around the dam is the Alento River Oasis, a site of Community Importance, covering an area of 3024 hectares and is the ideal place for birdwatching enthusiasts. In the numerous ponds downstream from the reservoir, you can observe species such as the Mallard, the Great Crested Grebe, the Teal, the Grey Heron, or the rarer Kingfisher. The European Otter has also been spotted in the waters of the Alento River, which continues its course towards the estuary from here. In the Oasis, you can stop; the facility offers food and accommodation to visitors who want to stay for a few days. To visit the Oasis, after passing through Mercato Cilento, Rocca Cilento, and Torchiara, head towards Prignano Cilento, continuing on SP113 until you reach the reservoir. You can then reach Trentinara by facing one of the toughest climbs of the entire route.