Tuesday, 13 November 2012


The Cilento is an outstanding cultural landscape. The dramatic groups of sanctuaries and settlements along its three east–west mountain ridges vividly portray the area's historical evolution: it was a major route not only for trade, but also for cultural and political interaction during the prehistoric and medieval periods. The Cilento was also the boundary between the Greek colonies of Magna Graecia and the indigenous Etruscan and Lucanian peoples. The remains of two major cities from classical times, Paestum and Velia, are found there - http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/842
Unless you’ve studied Classics, you’ve probably never heard of Paestum, which would be a shame because it turns out to be the location of some of the most well preserved Greek ruins in the world. Yes, even better than the ones in Greece, apparently. I didn’t study Classics but James did, plus it's a UNESCO site, so a visit was a no brainer.

Just over an hour south of Naples, the ruins of Paestum are kind of in the middle of nowhere, but still pretty easy to find and get to. Highlights on the drive included seeing a massive strip mall development à la America, with a mega Carrefour to boot.

Once we arrived, we decided to go through the museum first, which boasted all manner of ancient Grecian artefacts, and explained the history of the area. Even though they took the liberty of providing information panels in English, they had a Google Translate feel to them, rambling on with odd word choices and sentences that just wouldn't end. Case in point:

The private spaces of the house with the sculptural furnishings now become the places where the master shows his opulence and culture. The evocation of the Greek culture is what the master loves to show off, and this is accomplished by placing copies or revisions of Greek sculptures, which are very frequently badly executed, in the private places designed for opulent idleness.
Opulent idleness is probably quite apt when it comes to describing the lives of the richer Ancient Grecians, though.
The temple of Hera and Poseidon
The temples on the archaeological site were definitely the highlight. Compared to the ruins of the Roman Forum we were to seen in Rome later, or even pictures of the Acropolis in Athens, they certainly felt a lot more intact. Plus, you get not just one but three of these to admire!

Other than two noisy school groups passing through briefly, the site was practically deserted, in fact we only came across about four other tourists while we were there. I'm not sure what it's like in high season, but having a vast area of beautiful ancient ruins practically all to yourself is a luxury you're unlikely to enjoy anywhere else in Italy. Highly recommended!
James with the UNESCO sign
[Flickr set here]

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