While most of us have heard of Pompeii – and nearby Herculaneum – far less on the tourist radar is Paestum.
A city built by the Greeks between 550-450 BC and located in southern Italy's Campania region close to the Amalfi Coast, Paestum's ancient remains are splendidly preserved – in particular three vast Doric temples, each of whose entire structure mostly remains save for the roofs. Yet such is the comparative absence of visitors that Paestum feels somewhat like an undiscovered secret.
Let’s be clear: Paestum is by no means empty. Coaches do park up nearby with day-trippers, and each of those temples has a minimum of 25 onlookers inspecting it at any one time – particularly the oldest pair, the two Temples of Hera (the main one sometimes called the Temple of Neptune), inside whom visitors can climb. For safety reasons, one can only walk around the Temple of Athena.
But given the sheer immensity of these structures, they still feel spacious. The surrounding parkland helps facilitate this sense, too: Paestum comprises 62 acres sprawling with the remnants and roads of a once-great settlement. There’s a still-standing column here; a fallen roof there. It’s possible to pick around a rubbled assembly hall all alone, or to be the only person sitting inside the old, partially-crumbled amphitheatre. Such experiences are mighty unlikely up at Pompeii.
Again due to Paestum’s scale and openness, plus Southern Italy’s lazy heat, a solemn peace also transcends the site. Tourists pootle around quietly, gaping at those temples and mentally recreating the thriving town of centuries ago. Distant music occasionally trickles over from nearby trattorias, barely in earshot. The sky is a deep blue, the grass green and the temples a silvery stone, stark and elegant.
Paestum is easily visited on a day-trip from our property Palazzo Belmonte, in the nearby beach town of Santa Maria di Castellabate.Call 0207 359 3938 to speak to one of our specialists and begin planning your trip to Italy.