The most famous archaeological site in Campania, or perhaps in the whole Italy, is undoubtedly Pompeii. As you know, what makes Pompeii unique is its being a city "frozen in time" (although “frozen” is not exactly the right word to describe Pompeii) after the Vesuvius erupted in 79 CE. However, there is another archaeological site, equally important and equally “frozen in time”: the archaeological site of Paestum.
Visiting Paestum is an incredible experience. All of a sudden you find yourself in a period of time even before Pompeii, even before Rome was built. You’re back to the 600 BCE, when Greek colonists came here and founded Poseidonia (the city of Poseidon, the god of the sea) where they built those magnificent temples that you can still see today. Yes, because what makes the archaeological site of Paestum unique is that, apart from the Theseion in Athens, the doric-style temples of Paestum are best preserved temples in the whole world.
I must say that it’s difficult for me to convey the beauty of Paestum because its archaeological site is one of those places close to my heart. Places that I feel I belong to, like everything else connected to the Magna Grecia, or the whole area in Southern Italy where Greek colonists settled centuries and centuries ago and where we can still admire some of the most beautiful places in the whole world like Paestum or Agrigento, to name but the most famous. I remember studying these places in class and being able to actually go there and see them. Perhaps, this is one of the very few perks of being born here: to me beauty is not something I can read or see on a book, beauty is something that I live every day.
A visit to the archaeological site of Paestum is like a back in time experience. Apart from the main street filled with restaurants and shops running parallel to the site, there are no modern buildings in sight but green and nature. Particularly special before sunset, Paestum is one of those places where you can still breathe history. Its main temples are three: the first temple of Hera (also called the Basilica), the second temple of Hera (formerly called of Poseidon), and the temple of Athena (formerly called of Ceres).
I suggest visiting the archaeological site of Paestum with a guide that will surely give important information not only about the temples, but about the whole site and its complex and ancient history. However, I know it’s hard, but don’t rush your visit! Please, visit the close National Archaeological Museum: it’s not a big museum so it won’t take long, but you’ll get a general idea about the ancient Greek colony and the life of its people. Besides, the museum hosts the famous Tomb of the Diver, one of the few remains dating to the Golden Age of the Greek town (ca470 BCE).
Reaching the archaeological site of Paestum is very easy because it’s super close to Paestum train station which is daily linked to other cities like Salerno or Naples. What is more, the site is extremely active in promoting activities, workshops, guided tours, so if you wish to visit Paestum please check its official website or Facebook pages to know more about forthcoming events.
I hope I’ve convinced you to come visit the archaeological site of Paestum! Let me know in the comments if you loved it. Enjoy your visit!
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