Paestum 400
Photo by: Chiara Marra, Creative Commons

Paestum is known for its well preserved Greco-Roman architecture and archaeological sites. It is under the municipality of Capaccio in the southern part of Italy and is one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Site.

Greeks from Sybaris founded the city in 600 B.C. They had called it Poseidonia in tribute to the Greek god Poseidon, but the dominant deity of the city was Hera, the goddess of fertility because of the lush fertile plain. In fact, Paestum is well known for its roses that grow wild to this day. Then, Poseidonia was passed on to the Lucania, a local Italian Samnite tribe and called it Paistom. Then came the Romans and called it Paestum, Latin for Paistom. During the 9th century, the city was abandoned due to widespread malaria brought about by deforestation and increasing marshes created by the river Salso. Archaeologists say that this event brought about the well-preserved ancient structures that are found in the city today.

Visitors often visit the three of the well most preserved Doric Greek temples in this ancient city. The temples are roped around the perimeters to prevent access by visitors inside the structure. If you have no idea what a Doric Greek temple is mean think about the Parthenon of Greece. The Temple of Hera, the oldest temple, was built about 550 B.C. It is sometimes called the Basilica because earlier archaeologists mistook it as a Roman building. Other notable temples are the Temple of Neptune the most complete of the three and the Temple of Ceres which has a transitional architecture between Ionic and early Doric.

The archaeological sites are open to the public. Aside from the Doric temples that place Paestum on the map as one of the most famous places in Italy, you could also visit other Roman structures: a forum, an amphitheater and a gymnasium swimming pool. Paestum also has a museum, displaying artifacts like the Tomba del tuffatore, a painting that deviates from the usual theme of Greek paintings.

After a tour of the ancient city, don’t forget to try a delicious delicacy of the city, the mozzarella di bufula. There is a stretch of stores and cafés near the archaeological site, where you can sit outside, enjoy the sun and talk to the locals or you could also enjoy the nearby beach. Paestum is a like a time capsule that opens itself for you and bring you back to ancient times.

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