Paestum is a Greco-Roman site located south of Naples which contains the stunning remains of three ancient Greek temples which still stand tall today.
Founded as a Greek colony in the 6th century BC, Paestum was originally known as Poseidonia, named for the Greek god Poseidon.
It is estimated that Poseidonia would have become a flourishing town by 540. The area came under the domination of the Lucanians (an indigenous Italic people) sometime before 400 BC, after which its name was changed to Paestum.
Alexander, the king of Epirus, defeated the Lucanians at Paestum about 332 BC. The city remained Lucanian until 273, when it came under Roman rule and a Latin colony was founded there.
The locality was still prosperous during the early years of the Roman Empire however, the changing climate and political upheavals of the later Roman Empire saw Paestum begin to decline in the early medieval period and by the turn of the millennium, the site had been abandoned. It was not rediscovered until the 18th century.
In July 1969 a farmer uncovered an ancient Lucanian tomb that contained Greek frescoes painted in the early classical style. Paestum’s archaeological museum contains these and other treasures from the site.
The archaeological site of Paestum is home to three of the world’s best-preserved ancient Greek temples. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and includes a museum crammed with millennia-old frescoes, ceramics and artefacts. Among these, there is the iconic Tomb of the Diver funerary fresco.
Today, visitors to Paestum can still see the spectacular temples, the Temple of Hera, the Temple of Neptune and the Temple of Ceres (thought by some to be a temple of Athena). The temples of Neptune and Hera are located next to each other at the southern end of the site, while the smaller Temple of Ceres is at the northern end. You can walk up close to the temples, but they are roped off to prevent interior access.
The site also contains impressive defensive walls, a Roman forum, the basic remains of a Roman amphitheatre and a number of ancient tombs. Paestum also boasts an early Christian church and Paestum Museum, which has a wealth of information about the local sites. This site also features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Italy.
Getting to Paestum
Pastrum is accessible by public transport. Visitors can either take the train directly from Salerno to Paestum which takes half an hour or from Naples to Paestum which takes an hour and a half. Trains are not very frequent, so it can be useful to plan your journey in advance.
There are also buses, which are slower but can be cheaper, including from Salerno to Paestum through CSTP (line 34), SITA or Autolinee Giuliano Bus lines 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 10.
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