Centola is an italian municipality of approx. 5,000 people in the Province of Salerno (Campania Region); inhabitants are mostly concentrated, during summer season, in the marine hamlet of Palinuro, famous destination in the National Park of Cilento, Vallo di Diano and Alburni, while for the rest of the year, Centola remains the most populated area of the municipality.
Centola was founded, according to the tales, by a so-called “centuria” (unit of 100 people) of refugees from the ancient city of Molpa during the 16th century, and this “centuria” gave then the name to the city; therefore, some researches doubt that the name the city might have taken origin from an unit of measure used at the times, as also some parts of the town seem older than the legend tells.
The area of Centola has been inhabitated since ancient times: archeological researches during 1950’s brought to light ruins of an arcaic necropolis from 6th century BC, while the ancient City of Molpa, founded around 450BC, was located in the marine area known today as Capo Palinuro. Further researches brought proofs of human passage from periods previous the arrival of Greeks, up to Paleolithic era.
During Greek times, the city of Molpa, together with Palinuro, that at those times was a small village located on the namesake cape), was depending from the rich and powerful city of Sibari (in today’s Calabria region), then it was misteriously abandoned around 510BC, probably due to a plague, and then founded again by the Romans for coastal defense purposes. Later on, the area was chosen as holiday retreat by rich families of the Empire, and according to some studies also by Emperor Massimiano who chose to live here after waiving the command of the Empire, to enjoy the beauty of the location and the wines produced in the area.
During the medieval era, Molpa importance started to decline; the city got conquered first by Ostrogoti and then by Bizantines, under the command of General Belisario; the population spreaded around and found refuge in newly founded villages which still exist today. It is maybe from the number of these refugees, whom moved in a safe and repaired hillside village, that “Centula” was founded.
During Longobards times Centola grew rapidly around the Abbey of Santa Maria degli Angeli, which today doesn’t exist anymore; the Abbey was founded by Basilian monks between 515 and 530AD, and hosted the monks whom later on opened schools, ospices, a mill, an olive oil mill and vaste plantations of olive trees, a library rich of manuscripts, becoming central in the overall development of Centola and the nearby areas.
Above the Mingardo river Valley, around 9th or 10th century, the small village of San Severino was founded; it became strategically important for both Normans and Swabians, whom fortified it during their control over the village, then it was progressively abandoned from 19th century.
Around 1250AD, during the Swebian period, Centola became “Universitas”, getting an administrative indipendence, its own statute, a Mayor elected by the citizens, a judge, plus a “baglivo” who was in charge of the justice and a “baiulo” whom administrated the lands and properties of the municipality.
The hamlet of Palinuro, instead, was owned by the Prince of Centola and Marquis of Pisciotta Pappacoda until the 18th century, then became property of Rinaldi family.
Centola, Molpa and Palinuro were attacked and raided various times by turks and saracens pirates, and for defense numerous watch towers were built along the coastline, all still in good conditions today; Centola was part of the Riots of Cilento in 1828, while in 1861, following the unification of Italian territories under one country, Municipality of Centola was created.
Shortly after, many families of the area started emigrating towards American continent, while after WW2 the area was interested by a strong touristic development which completely changed the local social and economic life, trasforming it from a land/farming and fishing based into the destination the we know today.
Monumenti e luoghi di interesse
Church of St. Nicola di Mira
Bell tower, built approx 1100AD
Cocozzelli Baronial Palace
Lupo Baronial Palace
Rinaldi Baronial Palace
San Severino Castle
Caves & Grottos
The grottos known until today are thirty-two, above and under the sea, and only few of them are today used for touristic visits by boat from the local harbor of Palinuro, to reach real natural masterpieces like the famous “Blue Grotto”, “Silver Grotto”, “Monks Grotto” and “Blood Grotto”; Blue Grotto, the most visited due also to its intense blue color of the water, is a famous destination for researches for speleologists and biologists that, since the 1980’s, study this grotto which is considered a “small natural biological lab”.
In a few metres, infact, there are many light variations, hydrodinasmism that can interest the external ambience up to 100’s of meters; moreover, due to the presence of underwater sulphureus water springs, the rocks are rich of suplhu-bacterias, generated by the mix of marine salt water and sulfur, and which create the so-called “Snow Room”, a small underwater grotto which is visitable only by expert divers.
In the “Bones Grotto”, in Molpa area, is called so due to the animal and human bones which can be seen on the walls of this grotto, which are thought to be from Romans, which are known to have shipwrecked twice in this area, once during the Punic wars, when a fleet of 500 Roman ships failed to cross these waters, and a second time during the reign of Ottaviano, when few ships of the emperor didn’t reach the harbor of Palinuro. The dead bodies from both episodes accumulated in three grottos, later cloked up.
Hamlets: based on the statute of the Municipality of Centola, beyond the administrative center of Centola, the other inhabitated centers are:
- Foria: 611 people, 310mt above sea level
- Palinuro: 1800 people: 50mt above sea level
- San Nicola: 656 people, 236mt above sea level
- San Severino: 429 people, 130mt above sea level
The medieval borough of San Severino di Centola was founded around 1200AD right next to the Castle built by the Norman Turgisio; the name comes from the Sanseverino family, which dominated the area until approx. 1400AD.
In the closeby valley, river Mingardo passes by on its route towards the sea.
On 28th December of every year, a living nativity scene is organized in the old hillside village, with the intention of make the place live again after the abandon of the past century, due to sismic dangers which led to re-building the village in the less steep valley surrounding the originary hill.
Due to the past of time and missing maintenance, today only the old church is visitable, while the old homes and streets are still visible and visitable through an equiped itinerary.
Minestra di zucchine, uova e cacio
Insalata di spaghetti con vongole nere
Gamberi alla vesuviana
Crostata di mandorle e ricotta
Strada Regionale 447/b Ascea-bivio Rodio-Pisciotta-stazione S.Mauro La Bruca–Foria.
Strada Regionale 447/c Foria-Centola-Palinuro-Porto.
Strada Regionale 447 racc A Foria-Massicelle-Futani-Innesto SS 18.
Strada Provinciale 17/b Bivio San Cataldo-Celle di Bulgheria-Poderia-Ponte Mingardo-Foria.
Strada Provinciale 109 Innesto SP 17/b-Stazione di Centola.
Strada Provinciale 239/a Innesto ex SS 447 (Palinuro km 48+000)-Piano Faracchio-Innesto ex SS 447 (Palinuro km 48+300).
Strada Provinciale 239/b Innesto SP 239 (Piano Faracchio)-Innesto SP 239 (località Marinella).
Strada Provinciale 345 Strada Mediana di Palinuro.
Strada Provinciale 363 Foria di sotto-Foria di sopra.
Strada Provinciale 364 Innesto SR ex SS 447 (Colle San Paolo)-Innesto SP 239 (Marinella).
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