Paestum a major ancient Greek city, eventually conquered by the Lucanians and later the Romans. The ruins of Paestum are notable for their three ancient Greek temples which are in a very good state.
Hera, Temple 1
There are three major temples, in Doric style, that date from the first half of the 6th century BC. The temples were dedicated to Hera and Poseidon. The first Temple of Hera, was built around 550 BC is the oldest surviving temple in Paestum. 18th C archaeologists named it "The Basilica" because they mistakenly believed it to be a Roman building. A basilica in Roman times was a civil building, not a religious one.
Of course we have visited Pompeii when we toured the Campania Region, but when we have travelled to Paestum which we found a much more dramatic and pleasant opportunity to see incredibly large and well preserved Greek temples. It is a different experience than walk through Pompeii, we highly recommend visiting Pastum.
Paestum is considered to have the best preserved doric temples in the world and it is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
On our first visit we travelled from Amalfi by bus to Salerno, and then took the train to Paestum. It was about 38 minutes by train to Paestum. The trains are frequent. The station at Paestum is an easy 2 km walk down a quite road to the temples. The site opens at 9:00 am and remains open until about two hours before sunset, Tuesdays to Sunday. The museum is only open until 2:00 pm.
The site is said to be as well preserved as it is because of the mosquito's. With malaria hitting the coast in the middle ages, all people left and vegetation took over, basically hiding the old city. It was not until the 18th Century that when road builders for King Charles III were working that the came across one of the large temples.
The city was originally named Posidonia, and it was established in the 6th Century. It was when the Romans took over in 273 BC that they latinized the name to Paestum.
There are two very large temples, the Basilica and the Temple of Neptune. They are built in the Doric style and are very impressive. We surely enjoyed the lack of crowds and the quite peaceful atmosphere and we walked around the grounds.
The Neptune Temple, (pictured to the right) built in 450 BC is an impressive 60 m in length and stands intact with the exception of the roof and the inner walls. You can not walk through the temple (as you can in some of the sites in Sicily) but walk up the wooden fence and feel so close to the structure.
We were impressed with the size of the columns and the supporting structure for the roof - all in such incredible shape. You will glad you took the short walk from train station as there are no tour buses parked beside this temple!
The Basilica Temple (pictured to the left) is about a year older and a little smaller in size. It also is in very good condition and you can get a sense for the difference in overall look by the structure at one end that would have supported a smaller roof.
As with Greek temples, it is built in an East-West orientation with the entrance at the Eastern end.
We walked about the site, there are excavated streets that you can walk on. There are the remains of a Greek Theatre.
At the northern end of the site there is a small temple, the Temple of Cerres.
We did not visit the museum, however, it holds fragments of the sculptures.
In the museum there is the mural from the Tomb of the Diver. It dates to 470 BC and was found in the Area Tempa dei Prete in Paestum. It is one of a kind in terms of a surviving example of Greek artwork. Too bad we missed it, but after I read about it on our return, well it is always good to have a reason to return to Paestum.
Glenn & Karen Marcus