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Paestum is a very old ruined city about 85kms from Naples near the town of Salerno, Campania in Italy. It is not too far from the beaches of Salerno and originally founded on Swampy ground.
The city was founded in 650BC by a group of Dorian's who had been expelled from the city of Sybaris in Greece initially calling their settlement Poseidonia. It was overrun by the Romans in 273 BC and called Paestum however the city was abandoned between the 4th and 7th century's with the dwellings becoming ruins.
The city was abandoned due to the invasion of the Saracens the inhabitants staying in the nearby hills. It was more or less forgotten throughout the middle centuries and only rediscovered in 1740 they think due to the swampy conditions which were a breeding ground for mosquitoes and it being a malaria hotspot it was never resettled again. The area was rife with snakes and scorpions which added to the inhospitable area and eventually the town went into decay and became covered in silt from the river. The city was quite a large city and was surrounded and protected by walls that surrounded the 120 hectare site. Only 25 hectares have been excavated due to the fact that the city was divided by a new modern road and the rest of the site being on private land.
So what is so special about Paestum today?
The old city contains three Greek Temples that are the finest example of Greek architecture outside Greece and they are essentially still intact. The temples were built in the 6th Century BC and were dedicated to Hera and Athena the third building is the Basilica which was not used as a place of worship but rather as a meeting place.
The temple of Hera is surrounded by 13 columns down two sides and six columns abreast. There is no roof on the top of the building although there would have been in its heyday. Inside the temple there is an inner temple structure containing two large round columns and four square columns along the back and front of the temple and 14 smaller columns on the inside.
The temples stand majestically in a large field and in between the temple of Hera and the temple of Athena and the Basilica are some of the ruins of the town including the forum and Main Square, an arena and an amphitheatre with a magnificent entrance. What is noticeable is the brickwork some of which is typically Roman in origin however there are other pieces of brickwork that looks rather aesthetic and pleasing on the eye.
There are a couple of Heroons which were partially built below ground with the roof above ground. These are Greek and Roman tombs built in honour of the Gods within their own compounds near the forum.
The site is a UNESCO world heritage site and is open to the public from 09:00 to one hour before sunset. While we were there several groups of school children visited the site plus a few other tourists. The site was not very busy while we were there to be honest so we were able to enjoy the visit pretty much having it to ourselves. It cost 10 Euros to enter the site and tickets are available from the museum just off the main street to the right of the church. The museum contains some artefacts from the abandoned city including art work from some of the tombs close by.
Would I recommend a visit to Paestum?
Yes I would if you have spare time. It is roughly a two hour drive to get there from Naples but if you are interested in Ancient Greek and Roman sites it is a definite cert as they are superb examples of ancient architecture. There is not much else here besides the ruins in the small town apart from a few shops, cafes a small museum and a church.
Please note that the photo put is the local church in Paestum and built from some of the ruins of the ancient city. THINK Parthenon then you will imagine what the temples actually look like.