The archaeological area of Paestum, founded by the Greeks around the 7th century B.C. with the name of Poseidonia, it represents one of the most interesting in Italy, preserving ancient buildings in excellent condition.
Its ancient walls still surround what remains of an extraordinary civilization. Reinforced by the Romans, they form a ring of 5 km thick about 5 meters and made of travertine.
Undoubtedly the flagship of the archaeological area of Paestum is composed of the triad of temples:
Temple of Cerere – Athena (6th century BC), although of modest size, is the smallest of the three temples, of great charm and extraordinary workmanship. In medieval times it was transformed into a church and holds, against the external wall, three Christian tombs.
Temple of Poseidon – Neptune (5th century BC), the most impressive and magnificently preserved was built in 460 BC with a double order of columns that give it great elegance. Some have compared it to the Temple of Zeus at Olympia, but with the difference that this, after more than 2,400 years, is still perfectly preserved.
Temple of Hera (6th century BC), also known as the Basilica, is the oldest of the three and represents one of the largest Greek temples built in stone. The dimensions are 26 meters wide and 55 meters long and the architecture is in clear Doric style.
The residential quarters extended around the temples and the market. The remains of houses, spas and shops that can be seen today on the site date back largely to the imperial age (I-V century AD). Outside the city walls several necropolises have been found and among these one deserves a special mention given that it is one of the largest in the ancient world: the Necropolis of the Gaudo. There are about thirty tombs that returned funerary material, including funerary objects, weapons and other objects kept at the National Archaeological Museum of Paestum.
A visit to the excavations can not be separated from a visit to the National Archaeological Museum of Paestum (inside the archaeological park), where you can appreciate an important collection of ancient Greek objects found throughout southern Italy. Of extraordinary interest are the painted tomb slabs, among which the most famous is the Tomba del Tuffatore of 480 BC, to which is added the cycle of painted tombs from the Lucan period. A new section of the Museum houses finds dating back to Roman times.
History of Paestum
The city was founded 6 centuries before Christ by Greek colonists from Sibari and was called Poseidonia in honor of the God of the sea. In the 5th century BC the Lucanians succeeded in taking possession of the city and changed its name to Paistom, while in 273 BC it became a Roman colony and the name it was given was the one with which we also know it today “Paestum”.
Over the years the city was subjected to a continuous and inexorable decline and during the Middle Ages the site was totally abandoned and the inhabitants settled in what later became Capaccio. After centuries of oblivion, Paestum was rediscovered more or less simultaneously with the discovery of the excavations of Pompeii and Herculaneum, in the 18th century. Right from the start we understood the importance of those excavations that became part of the Grand Tour, a program of artistic training trips very much in vogue at that time.
How to get to Paestum
By Car: A3 Salerno-Reggio Calabria motorway, exit at Battipaglia or the Eboli exit if arriving from the South, and take the SS 18 and then take the Paestum exit. From Salerno, take the SP175 provincial road south along the coast.
By Train: Salerno and Battipaglia are the main stops on the Naples-Reggio Calabria line where numerous local trains stop and proceed to the Capaccio and Paestum railway stations (distance from Salerno 40 km).
Useful information on Paestum
Address: via Magna Graecia, 917 84047 Capaccio (SA)
Timetables: The archaeological site is open every day from 9am to an hour before sunset; the ticket office closes two hours earlier.
Official website: http://www.museopaestum.beniculturali.it
The best time to visit this area is spring, when the days are long, warm and not too hot; however also autumn and winter can give great charm to these ancient buildings. The terrain is a bit bumpy so it is advisable to wear comfortable shoes.
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