For years a friend of mine, Michelle, who has lived here forever and is now a top-class wedding planner, tried to convince me that I should visit.
Then another friend bought an old villa near here and restored it. I saw the photo of the table set for lunch, that's the photo up top, and thought... what's missing?
Well me of course.
So, I jumped on the train from Venice and headed down.
I was stunned. The whole area is amazing but Castellabate captured my heart.
Castellabate is made up of a whole lot of hamlets and each one has its own character and charms. These are the ones you'll not want to miss...
This is the original Castellabate; centuries old and still keeping an eye on the more modern Castellabate far below.
I adore this part of town.
On my first visit, I arrived around midday, wandered the cobbled lanes, listened to dishes clattering in pretty cottages. The air filled with the aromas of seafood cooking, coffee brewing.
Stepping out from one particular shady little lane, I found a piazza before me.
My eyes danced across the tables, past a house of golden stone to a view I'll forever recall. It was then that my heart was lost to a little town on a hill in Cilento. The little old town of Castellabate.
I can't tell you much more. All you need know is that you MUST visit.
Follow the lanes to the piazza and it's enough. The answer is there for you.
The question is why have you taken so long to get here?
This newer part of town is famous for its beaches and in July and August it can get fairly crowded - with Italians. Very few foreigners, only those lucky few who've discovered Castellabate and the Cilento, holiday here.
Even in July, even with all the tourists, you never feel unwelcome.
You'll not get ripped off with ridiculous prices, people are never rude and you are never rushed to finish a meal and go.
The feeling is more like you're staying with an Italian family. It's as if they've been waiting all their lives for you to return, nothing is too much trouble.
As they say here: "you cry with joy when you arrive and you cry with sadness when you leave."
What to see?
The beach is the main tourist attraction and what a lovely beach of soft sand it is, caressed by gentle waves, very warm water too throughout the summer and into early October.
The other sights include the old watchtower/castle, which you'll find at the end of the beach, then, tucked away in the road that leaves the beach, is the little Santa Maria Santuario church.
Most families still live from fishing. Get up very early and you'll see the fishing boats coming back with the day's catch.
If you're not an early-bird then you can find those same fish at the many local fishmongers, or at the Perbacco Restaurant in Via Andrea Guglielmini, 19.
Pretty as postcard San Marco is; you'll find it a little to the south of Santa Maria and here, even more so than in Santa Maria, fishing is the main activity.
Life is lived close to the sea and most people's living comes from the sea. In San Marco the daily menu revolves around the days catch and locally grown fruit and vegetables.
No wonder they live so long!
You won't find more than a few souvenirs shops. You will find restaurants serving seafood that was swimming earlier in the day; it's never overcooked or over-sauced either.
Try Lo Scoglio in via Pozzillo 87 for some of the best.
I'll let our friend Michelle, who lives near here, tell you about Ogliastro Marina - it's a real favorite of hers.
Ogliastro Marina is a gorgeous Castellabate village in the National Park of Cilento and Vallo di Diano, where vast pine forests extend to the coast and golden beaches stretch down to a crystal blue Tyrennian sea.
A beautiful Italian style holiday resort, with a handful of pretty villas, a couple of hotels and local bars and restaurants serving only the best quality fresh and home-made produce.
Talking of restaurants try Il Cefalo, Villa Gio and Da Carmine.
All offer fresh caught local fish served with home-grown vegetables, home-made pasta with toppings and seasonings you’ve never even thought of, makes your mouth water.
Before you get to dinner enjoy an aperitif sitting by the sea - involving a good glass of wine from one of the many vineyards here and with some ‘stuzzichini’ to nibble on while breathing in the sea air and listening to waves crashing below.
The locals are very relaxed, friendly and genuine people welcoming you and looking after you as a real friend, not a customer.
It’s just impossible not to fall in love with this place and become part of it.
I discovered this little treasure many years ago after stumbling across it meeting English clients here on holiday for the tour operator I worked for. From then I just kept coming back and became part of the community making many good friends.
After setting up my own little Wedding Planning company 10 years ago, I now enjoy showing couples the beautiful church and stunning villas to marry in and the pretty beach lido for wedding parties
Italy Bride and Groom Weddings is my small Italy Destination Wedding Planner company dedicated to creating the most amazing wedding imaginable in hidden parts of Italy you never knew existed.
Actually just about always here in Cilento and Ogliastro Marina.
There’s nothing as gorgeous anywhere else.
You can get a train to Castellabate-Agropoli station from nearly anywhere in Italy and then take bus number 34 from the station into Santa Maria di Castellabate. You'll find train timetables on the Trenitalia.it website.
Public transport isn't that great once you are in Castellabate, so my advice would be to rent a car before you leave and pick it up at the airport on arrival.
Generally you will fly into either Naples or Rome and the drive south is a pleasant one.