Wine and food are two of the reasons why visitors remember Agropoli. Traditionally linked to fishing traditions and the Mediterranean Diet,
described for the first time in the 1960s by renowned American physiologist, Ancel Keys, the cuisine of Agropoli is listed as UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. Pulses, oily fish, dairy products, and seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables are mainstays of the Agropoli diet, as are the town’s much sought-after niche products which have garnered widespread popularity, from DOC wines to PDO olive oil, and the PDO Cilento white fig. Getting to know and appreciate local flavours is possible with wine and food tours, on offer all year round, in every season, in wineries and businesses specializing in typical products.
Agropoli has numerous religious festivals and folk traditions, kept alive by the inhabitants of the old town.
On 24 July, a festival is held in honour of Our Lady of Constantinople, traditionally considered the patron of fishermen. The celebration involves a charming sea processionand legend has it that a painting of the Virgin Mary was found in the sea by some sailors after a storm. Having brought it back to shore, they chose Our Lady to be their protector and built a chapel in Her honour within the ancient citadel. During a raid by fierce Saracen pirates, the church was ransacked and many sacred objects were stolen, including the picture of Mary. When the pirates returned to their ships, they found they were unable to set sail due to an unnatural force that sent adverse winds and tides, and stopped them from leaving. The pirates were able to depart only after they left the sacred image on the beach. .
Saint Francis. According to the legend, in 1222 the poor saint of Assisi landed in the small port of Agropoli to bring the Word of God, and was mocked and mistreated by the inhabitants. He decided to speak from a rock to the inhabitants of the sea instead, who listened to him. The episode has become folklore, but is corroborated by the historical documents found in the annals of the Franciscan Order.
Two legends give an account of the origins of the River Testene that runs through Agropoli. Once upon a time, in the Cilento Mountains, there was a young shepherd called Testene, who lived with his mother and stepfather, Tagliabosco. When his mother died, young Testene was left alone in the world and mistreated by his stepfather. After some time, he decided to flee to the woods and he found a spring, where he stopped to drink and to give vent to this troubles. Suddenly, Tagliabosco stepped out from behind a tree and beat him savagely. The spring, to save the boy from the stepfather’s fury, gathered him to its bosom along with all his tears, and from that moment took the name Testene, in eternal memory of his name.
The other legend tells the story of the supremely beautiful Testene, daughter of the Lord of Agropoli, massacred by the Turks during the infamous raid of 29 June 1630, and whose maidservants shed so many tears they made the river.
The sword of the ferocious Saladin. During the Saracen occupation, a wise old man decided to go to the gates of the castle to seek audience with the Ferocious Saladin, and ask him to put an end to all the carnage. Angered, Saladin raised his sword against the wise old man and brought it down on his defenceless head. Thanks to a spell cast by the wise man, however, the sword was transformed into the purest lily, and Saladin was transformed into a great worm that slithered along the side of the road to avoid being crushed underfoot by his own soldiers.
Trentova and the legend of Ermigarda.
The tourist resort of Trentova, a word meaning thirty eggs, derives its name from a large limestone rock close to which thirty seagull eggs were said to have been found.
Another legend, however, that tells of Ermigarda, the daughter of the Saracen leader, who fell in love with Octavio, a young fisherman. Their love turned into tragedy when the fisherman died at sea and Ermigarda took her own life. Neptune took pity on her and transformed her into a rock. Over time, another rock formed close by and took the shape of Octavio the fisherman.
The legend of the seagulls. An ancient Agropoli tale says seagulls are the souls of dead sailors, and as they fly they herald the arrival of a lull or a storm. In the eighteenth century, Agropoli was hit by a famine, followed by a terrible plague. There was almost no food left, and what little there was, was infected. The inhabitants could survive only on what they fished from the sea. A storm raged for many days and stopped the fisherman from going out with their boats. Some of the younger men decided to go out anyway, to stop their families dying of hunger, but a tremendous wave engulfed the boats and plunged them into the depths of the sea. Saint Peter and Saint Paul saw what happened, and out of pity for the unfortunate mariners turned them into seagulls to be storm-heralds for fisherman venturing into open waters.