Magnificent Greek ruins – in southern Italy! Explore the well-preserved ruins of Paestum, Italy and you’ll find yourself walking with the gods from 500 B.C.
Paestum, Italy Ruins
Even though they are right here in Italy, the Paestum ruins are some of the best-preserved Greek ruins in the world. Roads, temples, amphitheater, pools, homes, and forums make up this wonderful city surrounded by thick walls blocking more modern buildings and homes. Of the ~300 acres that make up this city, only 60 have actually been uncovered and studied.
Magna Graecia covered the area now known as southern Italy and was settled by the Greeks around 900 BC. Later the Lucanians took over, and finally the Romans. The temples date back as far as 550 BC. Based on the artifacts we know that the area was used by the Greeks, Lucans and the Romans, and there are even some Medieval Christian tombs in the floor of one of the temples.
The area was most likely abandoned due to living conditions thanks to mosquitoes and malaria. Poseidonia, as the Greeks called it was then all but forgotten until it was rediscovered in the 18 century.
Temple of Hera
Temple of Neptune
Temple of Athena
As we wandered around it felt almost rebellious. Were we really supposed to be walking through these temples that were built 2,500 years ago? Walking along the town road and stepping into the homes of people who lived thousands of years ago was extraordinary. I hope that they always keep the grounds as open to viewing as they were for us. Please don’t be like the foolish man we saw trying to push down one of the ancient columns.
Paestum Archeological Museum
Across the road from the archeological site you’ll find the museum. Inside there are two floors of archeological finds from the area. One of the most famous pieces of work on display is the Tomb of the Diver. They found it in 1968, and it is impressive because it is from the 5th century BC; the entire fresco has survived, and its beautiful depiction of the human form is extremely rare for the time period.
Hot Air Balloon Festival
Although we had just been to the Tenuta Vennulo Organic Farm the weekend before, we hadn’t yet made it to the Paestum ruins. On Monday, Matt learned that one of his coworkers had gone to Paestum for the hot air balloon festival that was going on only until the end of the week. The idea of taking a hot air balloon over the Paestum ruins was enticing, so of course, we went back for a second week in a row.
It was too late to make reservations for the hot air balloons but they did have a kid-friendly tethered ride, a balloon that goes up but attaches to a wire on the ground. Although we were really excited for this, the weather didn’t cooperate. Next year, then!
Saturday night, we caught a glimpse of a few balloons going up, heading toward the mountains. Sunday morning, however, there was about a dozen or more balloons going up in quick succession; it was beautiful to see. They were floating right over the Paestum ruins, many of them landing in-between the temples before going back up again!
Where to stay in Paestum, Italy
Most people make Paestum a day trip. We found a lot of options for an Airbnb the day of our visit and were happy that our accommodations were so close to the ruins. Although it can be an easy day trip from Naples, we chose to stay the night because we wanted to be there at sunrise and sunset.
There were a lot of signs for beach camping on our drive if that’s something that interests you!
Bring your boogie board and head to the beach during your day trip to Paestum. The beautiful blue water is alluring, especially on a summer day. Sperlonga beach was sandy and calm but the beach here, at least in October, had waves big enough to surf and boogie board. Do you want to swim around ancient ruins? Then head to Sperlonga!
A trip to Paestum, Italy would not be complete without a visit to one of their mozzarella di bufala farms. We have loved going back again and again to Tenuta Vannulo Organic Farm. On your list of things to try should include:
- Lunch at their restaurant
- Lemon and pistachio gelato
- Hot chocolate
For more information about visiting the buffalo farm check out our post about Tenuta Vannulo Organic Farm.
Plan your trip:
The first Sunday of every month entrance to the grounds and the museum is FREE!
Seeing the ruins both when it opened at 8:30 and at the end of the day was perfect for the dramatic lighting. The bonus is it is far less crowded. If you can time it just right, we recommend getting there at 8:30, walking around for a couple of hours, then heading to Tenuta Vannulo farm for lunch.