The ruins of Paestum provide insight into ancient Greek and Roman life

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A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the ruins of Paestum include three Greek temples built between 560 and 460 BC. The most well-preserved is the Temple of Neptune, which visitors can enter and explore. (Alison Bath/Stars and Stripes)

With the famous ruins of Pompeii looming large in people’s imaginations, many smaller and lesser-known Italian ancient sites are often overlooked.

One such place is Paestum, an ancient Greek colony located along the Tyrrhenian Sea about 60 miles south of Naples.

The ruins of Paestum include three well-preserved Greek temples built between 560 and 460 BC. Visitors can step into two of them and marvel at the massive structures adorned with Doric columns, one of the three orders of ancient Greek architecture.

The Temple of Neptune is visible from the ruins of Paestum.  The ruins include a Roman amphitheater, market area and well-preserved walls that surround the city.

The Temple of Neptune is visible from the ruins of Paestum. The ruins include a Roman amphitheater, market area and well-preserved walls that surround the city. (Alison Bath/Stars and Stripes)

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Paestum was founded in the 7th century BC by Greek colonists, who called it Poseidonia. The area was probably already occupied by humans when they arrived, according to the Italian site Siti Archeologici d’Italia.

The city later came under the control of the Lucanians, an ancient Italic tribe, and finally the Romans in 273 BC. AD, who named it Paestum, the website says.

Tours of the ruins are self-guided via an app in several languages ​​that includes an interactive map, text and audio. It is available for download on iOS or Android. Information boards are also installed throughout the park.

Visitors can enter and explore the Temple of Neptune, one of three temples in the Paestum ruins in Italy.

Visitors can enter and explore the Temple of Neptune, one of three temples in the Paestum ruins in Italy. (Alison Bath/Stars and Stripes)

Visitors can enter and explore the Temple of Neptune, one of three temples in the Paestum ruins in Italy.

Visitors can enter and explore the Temple of Neptune, one of three temples in the Paestum ruins in Italy. (Alison Bath/Stars and Stripes)

Once inside, visitors will be drawn to the Temple of Neptune, to the right of the entrance. Built around 460 BC. AD, the temple is the best preserved of the three, with much of its elements, except the roof, still intact.

Visitors can enter and explore the temple, but access is controlled to limit the number of people in the structure at any time.

Further down a concrete path is the Temple of Hera, also known as the Archaic Temple or Basilica. It is the oldest of the three temples.

Built from 560 to 520 BC, the Temple of Hera is the oldest of the three temples in the ruins of Paestum in Italy.

Built from 560 to 520 BC, the Temple of Hera is the oldest of the three temples in the ruins of Paestum in Italy. (Alison Bath/Stars and Stripes)

Its construction took 40 years and archaeologists believe work began in 560 BC, according to the Paestum app. People can also enter or walk around part of this temple via a trail system that winds through much of the park.

The Temple of Athena is visible from the Temple of Neptune at the ruins of Paestum in Italy.

The Temple of Athena is visible from the Temple of Neptune at the ruins of Paestum in Italy. (Alison Bath/Stars and Stripes)

The Temple of Athena in Paestum, Italy was built around 500 BC.  Visitors can walk through the temple ruins but cannot enter.

The Temple of Athena in Paestum, Italy was built around 500 BC. Visitors can walk through the temple ruins but cannot enter. (Alison Bath/Stars and Stripes)

Across the ruins to the north is the Temple of Athena, located on a small hill that has been artificially enlarged to accommodate the structure. This temple, built around 500 BC. AD, was later used by the Romans to worship the same goddess, whom they called Minerva, depending on the application.

The area around the temple is known as the North Sanctuary and contains evidence of numerous altars and other structures. Arrows and shields – Athena was the goddess of battle strategy and wisdom – were found in the sanctuary.

The ruins of Paestum, Italy include a place of meeting or public assembly, a Roman amphitheater, a market area and well-preserved walls that surround the town.

The ruins of Paestum, Italy include a place of meeting or public assembly, a Roman amphitheater, a market area and well-preserved walls that surround the town. (Alison Bath/Stars and Stripes)

In addition to temples, the ruins of Paestum include four city gates and an approximately 3-mile-long wall that surrounds the city. A public meeting place, houses, a market and shops, a shrine and a swimming pool and other elements of daily life can also be explored.

Another highlight of the park is the Roman amphitheater, where the citizens of Paestum would go to see gladiators, wild beasts and, occasionally, executions, depending on the app.

The ruins of Paestum include a well-preserved Roman amphitheater, market area, roads and walls that encircle the town.

The ruins of Paestum include a well-preserved Roman amphitheater, market area, roads and walls that encircle the town. (Alison Bath/Stars and Stripes)

While the Romans built much of the city, they kept the original Greek city plan, including streets, in place, the app says.

Do not miss the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Paestum, which is located on Via Magna Graecia opposite the archaeological site. The museum includes pottery, tools and other objects found in the city and nearby necropolises and a sanctuary.

Paestum also includes a museum that displays pottery and other artifacts, such as well-preserved frescoes from a tomb.

Paestum also includes a museum that displays pottery and other artifacts, such as well-preserved frescoes from a tomb. (Alison Bath/Stars and Stripes)

It also includes five frescoes found near Paestum in the Tomb of the Diver, named after a funerary painting that depicts a young man diving into a pool of water.

Archaeologists believe that the diver’s panel and four others depicting a symposium were created around 480 to 470 BC.

The panels are incredibly well preserved with vibrant colors. Although it is unknown for whom the grave was made, it is easy to imagine an athletic man shot down in his youth.

Paestum is at its best in spring and fall when the weather is cooler. If you visit during the summer, make sure you have plenty of water and wear a hat and sunscreen.

Although there are bars, cafes and souvenir stalls outside the park, there are no shady spots or benches at the archaeological site where visitors can sit and take a look. pause.

With its full access to the archaeological history of southern Italy, the parks and museum offer an easy trip from Naples and a chance to admire the grandeur of Greek architecture and ancient Roman life in a one-to-one format. choose yourself.

It’s a great place for families, history buffs, and people looking for a fun day trip to indulge their curiosity about early Mediterranean culture.

On the QT

How to get there: By car, Paestum is about an hour and 45 minutes from Naples. Take the train from Naples central station to Paestum. Cross the street just in front of the station to walk west on Strada Provinciale 168 to Via Magna Graecia. The park is about a 10 minute walk from the station. For train timetables and ticket prices, visit: https://www.trenitalia.com/it.html

Cost: From March to November, adult admission is 12 euros, which includes the archaeological sites of Paestum and Velia and the National Museum of Paestum. The ticket is valid for three days. From December to February the cost is 6 euros. There are reduced rates for children and families, and an annual pass is also available.

Hours: 8:30am-7:30pm daily (holidays may affect hours or opening). There are cut-off times for last entry into the parks and museum.

Information: https://museopaestum.cultura.gov.it/

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