The ancient city of Paestum is a veritable goldmine of Ancient Greek architecture and history. It’s a glimpse into a world we couldn’t possibly imagine otherwise! The Parco Archeologico di Paestum lies in what is today the region of Campania, but the city used to be a part of Magna Graecia. Here’s what to see at this remarkable archaeological site.
A Brief History of Paestum
The Ancient Greeks founded the city c600 BC. Originally, they named it Poseidonia (after the god of the sea, Poseidon). As a result, Paestum is one of the few places on earth where you can admire Ancient Greek architecture. Specifically, the city is known for it’s almost perfectly preserved Doric temples.
The city soon flourished and became prosperous. However, the Lucanians conquered it in 410 BC. Later, in 273 BC, the Ancient Romans took it over and renamed it Paestum. Today, these 2,500-year-old archaeological ruins are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Check out the video below for a peek at life at the time, staged within the current day site:
#igiorniromanidipaestum stanno per tornare…18 e 19 marzo a Paestum!
Publiée par Parco Archeologico Paestum sur Jeudi 9 mars 2017
I Giorni Romani di Paestum is an annual event, where enthusiasts gather to recreate Roman life in the ancient city.
Must-Do’s in Paestum
The site is perhaps most famous for its three temples. These are among the best preserved Doric temples in the world. They no longer possess their roofs, but make for impressive structures regardless. The Temple of Hera is also known as the Basilica. It rests at the far end of the site and is the oldest of the three. The Temple of Athena is the smallest. Some call it the Temple of Ceres. The most well-preserved is known as the ‘Temple of Neptune’ (who is the Roman equivalent of the Greek god Poseidon). What’s more, tourists can walk along the colonnade inside two of the temples. Imagine walking the same path as priests and priestess of old!
Then there’s the museum. The Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Paestum is home to the many artifacts and remnants of ancient life from the city. It also features collections from the archaeological park’s history during WWII. Moreover, it’s here you’ll find the famous Tomb of the Diver, from around 480 BC. This masterpiece was created to accompany the deceased throughout his otherworldly eternal life on another plane. The exact meaning of its frescoes, as well as the painter’s identity, are still the subject of heated discussion among experts. What we do know, is that it is the only evidence of large-scale Greek painting (other than vases) from before the 4th century BC. The site’s listing with UNESCO also includes the National Park of Cilento, the Ancient Greek city of Elea, and the Certosa (Carthusian monastery) of Padula.
Paestum off the beaten track
Eat at a Michelin Star restaurant
Just 15 mins away from the archaeological site is Le Trabe Tenuto Capodifiume. Sample chef Peppe Stanzione’s gastronomic alchemy in the idyllic surroundings of the restaurant’s own estate.
Planning a trip to Campania? If not, surely you should! See our article on Naples for inspiration!