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Paestum

It is 9am and I am alone in the Temple of Hera. It was about 800 meters' walk from my hotel, which is really not an uncomfortable walk, there is a sidewalk and shade along a busy street. And then, looking to my left, the first temple in the archeological zone. Two of the temples now have access so that people can walk through them - for years, they were fenced off without access. The first temple has been cleaned of the vegetation that inevitably sprouts from ancient stone buildings, which artists and tourists find picturesque but which damages the integrity of the structure. Engineers were looking at the other temples, so I assume they are next for pruning.

Once in awhile I think that I am finished with Paestum, but then I see the temples (and the cleaning progress that is being made), and I have to come back to see how it's going. Besides, Paestum has the museum where I found my last name on a coin collection from 194 BCE; but even before then, I was drawn to be here, and to return.

The museum has a temporary exhibition of articles recovered from thieves - including a tomb that was sawn in half to make it easier to transport. It took me a few minutes to realize that the exhibition was about the recovery of stolen property (the metal-finding tools and chainsaws were a clue, as were the attributions to the Guardia di Finanza. I confirmed this with the gallery attendant, and exclaimed, "Che palle!" before I realized what I had said. He tried not to laugh.

I took some time to look at other artifacts, and as happens at every museum with antiquities, I was struck by the grave goods and everyday implements - the bowls, amphorae, all types of containers, covered in figurative or geometric designs. It creates a strong connection for me to the history of humankind, the fact that these things have survived, and that someone wanted to make something beautiful, instead of merely useful. I think the desire for beauty is as strong as the life force itself.

My B&B was Villa Nicodemo, and the owner picked me up at the train station (usual for the B&Bs and hotels in Paestum if you arrive without a car). I was a little dubious about how far the villa was from the ruins, because I had read reviews that said the booking site map is not correct (which it is not, but that's not the B&B's fault; I knew something was amiss when the map showed two Paestums), but it's not that far. Staying at the B&B is like staying in someone's house; breakfast is served in a nice dining room, dinner (if you opt for it, just let them know that day) is served outside in the garden, where one of the family will pick figs off the tree for the fruit course. There is a swimming pool, sundeck, bar and mood lighting.

The train station is not staffed, although there is a tourist information office upstairs (they keep moving the location). Years ago, when I first started coming to Paestum, the train stopped here two or three times a week, now there are trains every few hours. It's also pretty easy to get to from Salerno, but since Paestum has a beach, it makes a nice break from city touring. Can't wait to check the progress on the other temples next year.

Posted by
109 posts

What a great post Zoe! I visited Paestum in 2008 and absolutely loved it. I was excited when I saw "Tomb of the Diver" in the museum as I had just studied it in an Art History class. I remember the temples being fenced off, how great that you can now walk through them!

Have fun on the rest of your trip!

Posted by
604 posts

Thanks for the great post. "I think the desire for beauty is as strong as the life force itself." I agree; wherever you find human culture there is also art.

[Edit: that comment above might be tautologous; should have said "society" rather than "culture."]

Posted by
4059 posts

Zoe, thank you. It's definitely time for us to go back to Paestum. We were there in 2005, as a side trip from Positano. We took the SITA bus, as I recall, and had to change at least once. It took a long time to get there, and we were worried about catching another bus back to Positano, which made for a less relaxing time. I seem to remember standing on a dusty street corner late in the afternoon, hoping that each bus that came by was the right one. One finally was, or at least, it took us to another town where we could get a SITA back to Positano.

But the temples were awe-inspiring, and we were so glad we went. If the temples and grounds have been cleaned up, that's even better. It's on our "someday" list. Thanks for your beautiful post. And the B & B recommendation.

Posted by
11613 posts

If you want a closer place to stay, Albergo dei Templi is adjacent to the temple grounds and has its own entrance to the archeological zone.

Posted by
629 posts

Thank you for posting! We are going to going to Amalfi Coast next year and I'm trying to figure out how to add this to our itinerary. I think we may stay near the ruins and I'll look into those B&B recommendations.

Posted by
11613 posts

Amanda, the temples are still fenced off, but two of them have openings so people can walk inside.