When planning a trip to Italy, it is likely that you will explore some of the World’s most visited destinations such as Rome, Venice and Milan. However, if you’re searching for a one-of-a-kind Italian experience, sitting just 2 hours south of the Amalfi Coast is Italy’s best kept secret. Agriturismo San Leonardo, a small family owned farm and Bed & Breakfast, lies hidden away in Campania’s Cilento National Park. Only minutes from the sparkling waters of the Mediterranean, this area provides a relaxing getaway that most people don’t know about. Here, you can experience white sand beaches, rustic hill top towns, mouth-watering cuisine and the most memorable Italian adventure.
The History of San Leonardo
San Leonardo originally started as a restaurant in 2003 before it was transformed into what it is today, an Agriturismo (Farm stay/ Bed & Breakfast). It was passed down to brothers Christian and Mauro from their grandfather and has been growing ever since. The brothers continue to purchase more and more land around the restaurant, giving them the ability to grow the highest quality crops as well as provide excellent service for their guests.
It is not only the brothers at San Leonardo, as everyone in the family throws in a helping hand. You will often see Christian and Mauro’s parents, Salvatore and Marisa walking around the kitchen helping in the service and cooking aspects of an incredible dining experience. The two brothers are also flanked by their lovely partners, Jess and Vanessa. They spend a lot of time handling the advertising aspects through social media and promotions as well as bookings. They are always ready to answer any questions you may have. Lastly, you will often find the two Aunties, Teresa and Anna in the dining room, producing the best handmade pasta around. Italy is well known for its family culture which is easily seen at San Leonardo =)
How to Get there
While Agriturismo San Leonardo may seem off the grid and difficult to get to, it is actually incredibly easy and convenient to find. In the summer months, there are options for trains, buses or ferries, but they are very limited and not worth the stress. Renting a car in Naples or Salerno is above and beyond your best and easiest option. From Napoli, the ride is about two and a half hours while a drive from Salerno will take about two. Not only is the drive simple, it is rewarding with its views of Cilento National Park as well as the vineyards and small towns of the Campania region. If you’re a big fan of Bufala Mozzarella, then you’re in luck as this road is home to the mouth watering cheese. Along the way you will find plenty of cheese shops in which you could make a quick pit stop.
For precise directions, follow this link. Cars are easy to rent ahead of time online, and will help you save a few bucks. They are not extremely expensive, and you won’t be using more than a half tank of gas on your ride down and back.
You can add San Leonardo to any adventure of the Amalfi Coast or even Rome. One option is flying into Rome then taking a two hour train ride to Naples. From there, you can ferry to Capri for a few days, before moving onto Amalfi for the next stop. After enjoying the sun on the Amalfi Coast, it is simple enough to take a ferry into Salerno where you can rent a car to make the short ride down to Centola and the farm. If this itinerary seems like too much, it is simple enough to fly into Naples and go directly from the airport. Just book your car ahead of time!
The rooms feel as though you are glamping as you will be situated in some very clean and quiet wooden cabins right on the farm. The sounds of nature will help keep you relaxed throughout the day and add a great ambience for sleeping at night. Sweeping views of the surrounding area and the Mediterranean Sea are right outside your front door.
There are 9 chalets in total, some of which are family sized. The prices vary depending on the season, but typically go from €75 per night for Bed & Breakfast. Each room is equipped with a clean bathroom, refrigerator, television and strong wifi. Rooms are tended to each day with full service as a way to keep them clean and tidy. If you need something to be washed, the family has no problem helping and will take care of it for you. Peace, relaxation, and stress free living are easy to achieve while staying in one of these charming chalets.
Italian Dining Atmosphere
When staying at San Leonardo, there is no need to go anywhere else for food. The restaurant opens its doors each evening, welcoming guests for a spectacular dinner event. The entire day is spent in the kitchen, in preparation for the moment each guest sits down. In the summer, the windows are opened up, inviting a cool breeze that spreads across the dining room.
The dining room itself is set up with a rustic flare. Wooden chairs and tables are surrounded by walls of stone and brick, creating a charming ambience for a lovely night. The service is more than excellent as the San Leonardo family is sure to take care of your needs as well as provide you with the best recommendations. Any dinner in this beautiful dining room is sure to provide you with memories for a lifetime.
The main event while staying at San Leonardo is the food. There is a reason that you can find Italian food in just about any big city in the world, it is that good. But, have you ever had true, authentic, handmade with love Italian food? Yeah, I didn’t think so. San Leonardo served me the best food I have ever had, and I am not just saying that for the sake of this guide. Incredibly enough, the food kept getting better and better each day. I had the best dinner of my life multiple times as I really dove into their menu. Swipe below for a look into some different dishes..
There is something for everyone on the menu as it is diverse and jam packed with options. The courses and ingredients change based on the season and what is fresh, but you can always expect some delicious, handmade pastas. Each dish is equally exquisite and bursting with flavor, but there were a few dishes that stood out.
You cannot eat here without ordering the mixed anti-pasti board. This beautiful arrangement is designed as a display of San Leonardo’s best ingredients. The board allows you the opportunity to indulge in every bit of the farm from the cured meats and cheeses to the fresh vegetables and sauces. The cured meats and cheeses are exploding with flavor while the stuffed eggplant is truly one-of-a-kind. You will have a lot of trouble finding any other anti-pasti board this magnificent.
The Paccaro San Leonardo is not only an excellent choice, but the best pasta dish I have ever eaten. The large, handmade pasta tubes are cooked to a perfect al dente before being suffocated with homemade cheese, hand cured pancetta and farm fresh tomatoes. The trio is bursting with a flawless combination of saltiness, creaminess and freshness. Italian flavors have truly never tasted this good.
With the sea being only minutes away, it is not difficult for San Leonardo’s staff to find fresh caught seafood. Upon request, or on specialty, the farm has no problem whipping up some incredible ocean cuisine. Octopus is always a favorite of mine and this was undoubtedly some of the best. The peculiar sea creature is first boiled to an absolute tender finish before being added to a side of potatoes. On the pasta side of things, Spaghetti Frutti di Mare is very popular in this region and the kitchen can easily take advantage of that. The shellfish is picked out at the local market then added as the perfect accompaniment to some more handmade noodles.
One of the things that always stands out when eating anywhere in Italy is the homemade pasta, but it isn’t always done right. Each pasta at San Leonardo is unique and made fresh a few days a week. The process of the pasta making is beautiful to witness as the ingredients are whisked together the old school fashion way while each noodle is rolled out by hand. If you want to learn how to make some authentic and homemade pasta yourself, you can join in on the fun with Teresa and Anna, just ask ;), You can taste the difference when eating these handmade pastas as they will surly be some of, if not the best, to ever meet your taste buds. Just about everything served in the dining room comes directly from the farm, with the exception of the seafood that comes from the ocean only a few miles away.
It is nearly impossible to walk away from an Italian feast without some kind of dessert. San Leonardo offers a few different options for the end of your night, but if the tiramisu is on the menu, order it immediately. The farm’s rendition of this Italian classic is pristine. Each bite is seemingly better than the last as this extremely light puddling like cake is layered with extraordinary flavor. I watched as the family prepared each and every tiramisu in preparation for dinner, jealous that I could not stuff my face with all of them.
Lastly, a never ending amount of mouth watering wine. How can you eat anything in Italy without washing it down with some of the world’s best wines? San Leonardo’s homegrown vineyards are superb for producing excellent vino, and that is no joke. As the flavor is light and delicate, it pairs perfectly with just about everything on the menu. The Barbera grape used to make this wine is high in acidity, but low in mouth drying tannins giving off notes of cherry and raspberry with an aroma similar to blackberry. A bottle can be enjoyed while relaxing or as an accompaniment to any meal. Yes, even breakfast if you like to start your day off with happiness. The wine is extremely fresh as it does not contain any sulphates. Don’t expect to have a headache the next day after drinking a bottle or two.
Just about everything you see and eat in the restaurant comes from the crops throughout San Leonardo’s land. Christian and Mauro take pride in their crops and for good reason. Everything planted is grown organically and depending on which time of year you visit, you will find the freshest vegetables and fruits of the season.
Along with a large selection of fresh produce, the farm also produces some incredible meats and cheeses. The key to these delicacies lies in the diet which they are raised on. Nothing is wasted on the farm as Christian feeds anything unused in the kitchen to the animals. The animals live off the land, thus producing high quality products.
How can anyone not have fun playing with farm animals…? The farm is loaded with some fun loving animal friends that you will have the opportunity to meet. The king of the land, Ettore, is a three year old yellow lab that is very proud of his home. He is often seen walking around the farm looking for some ear rubs on his big head along with his best friend, Mila, a Jack Russell. Ettore loves to work and take care of the crops with the family as well as meet some new friends. He is the mascot, and there is no doubt about it.
Up at the top of the hill, the rest of these adorable fur balls reside among the stables. The family of goats are always ready to play around, just don’t let them eat your camera or shoes. Rosie, the donkey loves to have her face rubbed and is one of the nicest animals I have ever come across. Next to Rosie is Lady, a beautiful pony that loves a nice ear scratch as well. The rest of the area includes chickens, pigs and a family of sheep. All the animals have a purpose on the farm, especially the making of delicious cheeses. Make sure to get to know the animals as they are always happy to pose for a photo.
What is Italy without wine? As the farm is not massive in size of land area, the two vineyards make up for it with exquisite taste. Barbera Grapes, most typically grown in Northern Italy, are strategically grown amongst these crops. San Leonardo prefers growing this grape to others as the soil here is dry, which is where these vines thrive. The vineyards spend 3 years growing in preparation for a late September or early October harvest. An old fashioned method is used as the grapes are placed into a simple wooden wine press before being bottled into Demijohns. The final product is nothing short of exquisitely magical (if that is even a thing? If this isn’t enough to help you believe it, then try it out for yourself…
Best Time to Visit
While visiting San Leonardo is amazing anytime of the year, May, June or September will give you the best ability to truly relax on your own and with perfect weather. July and August are great months to visit as well, but expect there to be a bit of heat in the air as well as larger groups of Italian tourists roaming the surrounding area.
One of the most popular destinations of Italy, this region is home to some of the World’s most renowned beaches and richest histories. From Mt. Vesuvius to the sparkling waters of the Amalfi Coast, San Leonardo neighbors some of the most pristine locations in the country. On top of the endless, spectacular scenery, this area produces the world famous Mozzarella di Bufala.
The farm itself is located within the small municipality of Centola. The tiny, beautiful hilltop town only has a population of about 5,100 residents. It is easy to walk from one side of the city to the other in about 20 minutes, but there is still plenty to explore along the way. The streets of the town are rustic and everything you would imagine when you think of an authentic Italian town.
While Centola offers some beautiful views of the surrounding area and Palinuro, it is not the only thing that sets this charming town apart. The atmosphere and the personalities of the people in Centola will blow you away. Although most people in the area don’t speak much English, you will always be greeted with a smile. This town is not a tourist area, only the true authenticity of Italy 😉
This small town is home to a gorgeous harbor and white sand beaches. While it is hard to find many beaches in Italy that aren’t full of rocks, there is no problem here. You would expect to find a lot of tourists crowding this area, but you’ll have a hard time finding too many tourists that aren’t Italian. Palinuro is a bit of a secret to foreigners as most of them spend their time 150 km up the coast in Amalfi and Positano. If you’re searching for a much cheaper and more remote Mediterranean destination, then this is it.
If you want to see something out of the ordinary, the San Severino Ruins are located only 15 minutes away by car. Originally built in the 10th century, this tiny hilltop town was abandoned due to growing urbanization. It may not be big, but its scenery is undeniably beautiful. Climb up the stairs and onto the once populated streets for some gorgeous views of Cliento National Park.
Naples, Capri and the Amalfi Coast
Located just about an hour and a half north of the farm lies the famed Amalfi Coast. Home to jaw dropping views, sea side villages, lemon trees and a town erupting with history (if you catch my Pompeii reference). Although it is usually crowded depending on the time of the year, it is a good idea to add these hotspots to your itinerary before or after visiting San Leonardo. It is extremely difficult to explore this area without visiting at least one of these unforgettable destinations.
For more guides about Naples, Capri and the Amalfi Coast, follow the link below…
All Blue Tours
One of the best ways to spend your downtime around the area is on a boat. There are some good options around Palinuro that allow you to get out on the water and check out the impressive rock formations, but All Blue Tours delivers the highest quality tour around. Thanks to a recommendation from San Leonardo, I had the opportunity to check out the gorgeous coast line with Ciro, an awesome tour guide. Our excursion lasted about four hours as we came face to face with intense rock formations, swam in sparkling blue grottos and had lunch at a hidden beach cove. Ask the staff at San Leonardo to help make a booking with All Blue Tours.
Becoming Part of the Family
As Italy is one of the most visited destinations in the world, it is seemingly difficult to find many places that offer a true, authentic, one-of-a-kind Italian experience. The family at San Leonardo does nothing but excel in making their guests feel like part of the family while providing incredible service. Whether it’s helping the Aunties making pasta by hand in the dining room, playing with and feeding the farm animals at the top of the hill, visiting some hidden beaches and ruins, or having a glass of wine while watching a soccer match, the San Leonardo family will make you feel at home. If you’re in search of one of the most relaxing, unique, delicious and unforgettable getaways, make your booking now! And don’t forget to play with Ettore, he is always in search of a good ear rub.