Paestum's Temples information
Lonely Planet review
A Unesco World Heritage site, these temples are among the best-preserved monuments of Magna Graecia, the Greek colony that once covered much of southern Italy. The temples were rediscovered in the late 18th century, but the site as a whole wasn’t unearthed until as late as the 1950s. Lacking the mobs of tourists that can detract from the atmosphere at better-known archaeological sites, there is a wonderful serenity about the place. Take sandwiches and prepare to stay a while. If you are visiting in springtime, the temples are particularly stunning, surrounded by meadows of scarlet poppies and wild flowers.
Buy your tickets in the museum, just east of the site, before entering from the main entrance on the northern end. The first structure to take your breath away is the 6th-century-BC Tempio di Cerere (Temple of Ceres). Originally dedicated to Athena, it served as a Christian church in medieval times.
As you head south, you can pick out the basic outline of the large rectangular forum, the heart of the ancient city. Among the partially standing buildings are the vast domestic housing area and, further south, the amphitheatre; both provide evocative glimpses of daily life here in Roman times.
The Tempio di Nettuno (Temple of Neptune), dating from about 450 BC, is the largest and best preserved of the three temples at Paestum; only parts of its inside walls and roof are missing. Almost next door, the so-called basilica (in fact, a temple to the goddess Hera) is Paestum’s oldest surviving monument. Dating from the middle of the 6th century BC, it’s a magnificent sight, with nine columns across and 18 along the sides. Ask someone to take your photo next to a column here, it’s a good way to appreciate the scale.
Save time for the museum , which covers two floors and houses a collection of fascinating, if weathered, metopes (bas-relief friezes). This collection includes 33 of the original 36 metopes from the Tempio di Argiva Hera (Temple of Argive Hera), situated 9km north of Paestum, of which virtually nothing else remains. The star exhibit is the 5th-century-BC fresco Tomba del Truffatore (Tomb of the Diver), thought to represent the passage from life to death with its depiction of a diver in mid-air (don’t try this at home).