Paestum Travel Guide | Europe Travel

How to Visit the Doric Temples in Campania

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James Martin

The main reason to come to Paestum is to see the most complete Doric temples in Italy. The zone of the Magna Grecia, greater Greece, starts here, and Paestum started out as a Greek settlement. Paestum is the Roman name of the city--the original Greek name was Poseidonia.

Where Is Paestum?

Paestum is in the Italian region of Campania and a subregion called the Cilento located just south of the Amalfi coast.

Paestum is in the middle of a pretty dense tourism zone--Pompeii, Herculaneum, the Amalfi coast, and Naples are all nearby. Campania has some of the best food in Italy.

Cilento and Vallo di Diano make up a UNESCO world heritage site

Getting There

By bus - Paestum is accessible from Naples, but more frequent service is available from Salerno or Naples on the "Vallo della Lucania-Agropoli-Capaccio-Battipaglia-Salerno-Napoli" line.

By Train - Paestum is accessible from Naples by train (make sure it stops at Stazione di Paestum. The site is a 15-minute walk from the train station. From the front of the station, walk through the gate in the old city wall and continue until you see the ruins in front of you.

The Magna Grecia

Greece started to expand in the 8th century B.C. into southern Italy and Sicily, where they founded colonies among the small, agrarian settlements that were not organized well enough to be able to defend themselves from the arrival of Greeks--in this case Achaeans coming from Sybaris.

Around 600 B.C. the Greeks settled in "Poseidonia," named in honor of the god of the Sea.

What Went Wrong?

After the Romans conquered the south they founded a Latin colony called Paestum here. But, as in many of the coastal areas, the population declined seriously in the Late Empire--some fleeing to the hills to avoid malaria, others falling in Saracen raids.

Paestum was lost to the world by the 12th century, discovered by road crews in 1752 and "re-discovered" in the 18th centuries when poets like Goethe, Shelley, Canova, and Piranesi visited and wrote about the ruins while on the "Grand Tour."

Visiting the Paestum Excavations

Paestum has three of the best-preserved Doric temples in Italy: the Basilica of Hera, the Temple of Ceres, and, on the southern end of the site, the Temple of Neptune, built in 450 BC, the oldest and best preserved of the Greek temples in Italy.

See a map of Paestum.

The ruins are open from 9 am to 1 hour before sunset every day ( the last admission is 2 hours before sunset).

There is an archaeological museum on the site. Opening hours are 8:45 am - 6:45 pm. The cost of the museum at the time of writing was 4 Euros, 6.50 Euros including the site visit. The Museum is closed the first and third Monday of each month.

Note: Paestum is currently on private land, which makes it difficult to administer and preserve. There is a group trying to buy the lands for this reason; SavePaestum is an IndieGoGo project you might consider contributing to.

Staying and Eating in Paestum

HomeAway lists seven vacation rentals in Paestum, some quite spectacular.

There was a reason the Greeks made a city here!

Since Paestum is near the sea, staying in the area can be made into a pleasant diversion for beach people.

Venere offers some fine, user-rated hotels in the Cilento and Paestum.

For a beach stay while exploring Paestum, see Gillian's List.

A well-regarded restaurant is located close to the site called Ristorante Nettuno, heavy on seafood.

Fertility Rites

The site's closing hours don't seem to stop couples wanting to make a baby, according to Sacred Sites:

"Childless couples flock to the temple of Hera to copulate beneath the night sky, in the belief that making love within the shrine of the goddess will call forth her fertilizing influence and thereby insure pregnancy. At Paestum, Hera is not only a goddess of fertility; she is also a goddess of childbirth."

Pictures of Paestum: 5 pictures of the temples are found in on thisĀ Paestum Slide Show.

Map and Travel Resources for Campania: For a map of the area around Paestum and nearby attractions, see our Campania Map and Travel Resources. Campania has a lot to do in a small area, from the dramatic Amalfi coastline to other ancient sites, castles, and palaces.