Paestum (Calabria), Italy October 2020

Paestum, also known by its original name of Poseidonia, was a Greek colony founded around BC 600 on the west coast of Italy, some 80 km south of modern Naples. It was conquered by the Romans in BC 273, renamed Paestum, and prospered for hundreds of years thereafter until some time in the 4th century when most of the inhabitants started to move inland to what is now Capaccio because of the spread of malaria in the area (following persistent deforestation and the land turning marshy). By the end of the 9th century, because of the malaria and ever increasing raids by Saracen pirates, the last inhabitants had left and the town was overgrown and lost until 1748 when during local road building the temples were rediscovered and excavated.

Today Paestum is one of the most visited archaeological sites in the world due to its three relatively well preserved Greek temples. They are purportedly the best of their kind outside of Greece although, trying to determine to whom the temples were originally dedicated is no easy matter. Google it and you’ll find that the larger middle temple of the three was dedicated to one of either Apollo, Poseidon or Hera. As for the other two, don’t ask. The museum attached to the archaeological site claims that the two larger of the three temples were both dedicated to Hera while the smaller temple was dedicated to Athena and I’ll go with them.

We were heading north towards Salerno and the Amalfi Coast and halted for a night or two at a camp site by the sea near Capaccio (at a place called Licinella-Torre di Paestum). It was pure chance that whilst out exploring the area around the camp site (I was actually looking for a decent restaurant) I stumbled on the archaeological site of Paestum… and wasn’t I pleased?!? I spent the next three hours happily wandering the site and it’s associated museum (and for dinner that evening we had to settle for a pizza and a couple of beers at the camp site). Some things are just meant to be.

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