If you want a real spectacle, then get to the Cilento National Park during orchid season to see the splendor that Nature endows every year!. The mountain meadows are speckled with an astounding array of wild orchids, more than 180 species in all! The tranquil, gentle wilderness is a world away from city life but not so wild and remote as to remain inaccessible. In fact, the Valley of the Orchids is fairly easy to find, off the A3 autostrada between Sala Consilina and Padula. Yet the highest peak of the Cilento National Park looms above, Monte Cervati, at 1899 meters above sea level. The starting point for the Valley of the Orchids trail is sleepy Sassano.

Arrive in Sassano and you'll discover this is the starting point for this and other trails that transport hikers into the higher reaches of the Parco Nazionale del Cilento e Vallo di Diano. Sassano is on the Vallo di Diano side. Nearby in Padula is one of the Cilento's most famous sights, the Certosa di Padula.

Sassano hosts the annual Orchid Festival in mid-May, turning the village into a vivacious center of enthusiasts who come to walk, admire the flowers and natural setting, and of course...eat! (This is Italy, after all!). You'll find a sign pointing to several trails. The Valley of the Orchids trail starts at the fountain. A few tips: the path is marked by red and white painted stripes, so is fairly easy to find and follow. There are also signs. When you reach the upper level and the valley, there are 5 "orchid stops" indicated by signs with photos to inform you of the species. Take water along, and a picnic lunch. You can reach the Belvedere di Gravola by car if you want a shorter walk; park there and then follow the trail to the Orchid Valley. The trail is about 13 kilometers.

Follow the signs to the jump-backed medieval bridge, Ponte Peglio (hamlet called Peglio). Then follow the path uphill to the Belvedere di Gravola, which aptly has beautiful views ("bel vedere" means just that!) Continue along to the Campo Filano, a wide meadow studded with limestone rocks. Here you'll find the biggest concentration of the delicate flowers. The trail continues uphill to the Piscina del Brigante, a glacial-carved depression, and finally the finish line at Tavolo del Paradiso.

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Address in Sassano:

Centro Storico.