Further along the Neapolitan coast, south of Amalfi, lies a piece of history that is absolutely enchanting and furthermore is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Long before the Romans arrived in southern Italy there were the colonies of the Greek city states, collectively known as Magna Grecia. One of those colonies was the city of Paestum. Founded around 600 BC, the city was conquered by a local tribe, the Lucanians, around 400 BC and afterwards, around 270BC, the Romans.
After the collapse of the Roman Empire the town gradually declined as the site became increasingly marshy and the coast was subjected to Saracen raids. By early in the Middle Ages the town was completely abandoned and it is this which has contributed to its conservation. In the 18th century, with the revival of the interest in antiquities, the temples became a place to visit for the more adventurous; Goethe and Shelley made the journey south from Rome.
What is visible today are the massive outer walls constructed from huge stone blocks. Inside the walls large areas remain to be excavated but the most important areas are visible and amongst them, still standing tall, are three Greek temples. These are the stars of the show – built between 550 and 450BC, there are two close to each other which were built to honour the queen of the gods, Hera, and the other was dedicated to Athena.
Next to the archaeological site there is a museum that is well worth a visit. Exhibits fall into two categories; firstly, there are fragments from the site that mainly date from the Greek period. Secondly, there are frescoes and funerary items from tombs in the area, mainly from the Lucanian period. Amongst them are the famous frescoes from a Greek tomb showing the enigmatic image of a man diving into water.
If you can, be there at sunset to really feel the atmosphere of this extraordinary place.