Swimming with Poseidon: Paestum Temples & Beaches of Italy
The Greek temples of Paestum in Italy are a Unesco heritage site. Don’t miss seeing the splendor of this 2,500 year old archeological site and spend some time at the nearby beach clubs. The Paestum beaches follow miles and miles of coastline and offer both archeological treasures and modern hotels and restaurants.
“Thus rocks on rocks in bulk enourmous rise:
And thus thy proud remains, O Paestum, here
Majestic now salute the wondering view […]
The nobelist of the monuments of man,
Resplendent rose from his creative hand.”
– from The Ruins of Paestum
and other compositions in Verse (1822) by Henry Pickering
Located south of the Amalfi coast in the Province of Salerno, Campania is the archeological site, Paestum. A 2,500 year old Greek settlement that was discovered behind an overgrown forest of trees and bush. After visiting the ruins of Paestum, I highly recommend a visit to the town center and the beachside resort along the coast.
The Glowing Glory of Paestum
When Nigel and Dawn, our local hosts at The Pinelli Estate in Cilento told us about the ruins of Paestum, I was intrigued to learn that Greek temples were in Campania. I had heard of Selinunte in Sicily but really hadn’t grasped the history and expansion of the Magna Graecia.
Magna Graecia, which today is most of southern Italy, was settled by the Greeks between 600 BC and 450 BC. Essentially, where we find doric ruins in Italy were one-time Greek colonies. They occupied most of the territories we know today as Campania, Apulia, Basilicata, Calabria and Sicily.
Just 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Naples on the Gulf of Salerno, it is recognized as one of the most important cities of Magna Graecia. Paestum is the third largest Greek temple outside of Greece.
The three temples, modeled after the Parthenon in Athens are temples dedicated to Hera, sister of Zeus and queen of the gods, Athena goddess of wisdom, handicraft and warfare and Poseidon the god of the sea, earthquakes and horses.
In the mid-90’s I lived in Athens. (Well, I actually “got stuck” in Athens for eight months, but that’s another story altogether!) Sights like the Acropolis, the temple of Zeus and the Parthenon were part of my everyday landscape. If you have ever been to Athens or Greece, you will be overwhelmed with nostalgia and déjà vu when you see Paestum.
Glowing honey colored columns of stone reach for the heavens. The three dominating structures stand strong in a vast garden of green. A truck with a cherry picker crane was parked nearby, ready for maintenance work. Seeing the modern equipment, I couldn’t help but wonder how they built this massive complex 2,500 years ago.
Upon discovery in the late 1700’s, Paestum quickly became a major landmark for anyone doing a grand tour of Italy and Europe. Today it is a recognized UNESCO Heritage site and must-see destination while visiting Cilento and the Amalfi Coast.
The Town of Paestum
Across the road from the temple site is a small town center. Apparently, in 1930 the civil engineer that build the road running along the temple grounds was fined and served jail time for malicious destruction of a historical site. There is a dedicated museum, ancient houses, modern cafes, pizzerias, a beauty spa offering buffalo milk treatments, souvenir shops, a hotel for clergy (yes, they exist!), and St. Annunziata a beautiful ancient church dating back to the 5th century.
Paestum is certainly something you must put on your itinerary while visiting Campania.
The Beaches of Paestum
Just two minutes away from Paestum is the beach. The closest beach from the temple is the public beach at the very end of the road heading west. All along the coast are beaches, restaurants and hotels varying from modest to luxurious.
We stopped for an aperitif at the beachfront restaurant Lido Nettuno. There’s a full service restaurant and beachfront lounge for afternoon snacks or evening cocktails. They have their own lido with chase lounges and umbrellas for rent.
Via Laura Mare, 84047 Laura SA
Tel. +39 0828 720009
The following day, we spent the morning swimming at the Lido Ariston, the beachfront of the 4 star luxury Ariston Hotel. There is also a waterfront restaurant and a long stretch of powdery sandy beach. The water is a deep blue and you can see the cape of Sorrento and the island of Capri in the distance. You can literally walk for miles up and down the coast of Paestum.
Via Laura, 13, 84047 Paestum SA
Tel. +39 0828 851333
I highly recommend a visit to the UNESCO heritage site, the temples of Paestum and spend some time at the nearby beach clubs.
How to get there
Fly to Naples international airport (then private or public transportation.)
Airlines that fly to Naples are: Alitalia, Easyjet, Volotea, Ryanair, Air Italia, Blue Air, Eurowings, Transavia, Jet2.com, Brussels Airlines, Finnair, Lufthansa, Vueling, Swiss, Air Cairo, Wizzair
Fly to Salerno-Amalfi Airport (then private or public transportation.)
Airlines that fly to Salerno are Alitalia, AirDolomiti, Carpatair, Danube Wings, Air Alps, Air Vallee, Medavia
There is an airport train to/from Napoli Centrale station. A 15-minute airport train to the Napoli Centrale Station costs €5 (one-way).
The best way to get to the smaller towns along the coast is to drive. We flew into Naples airport and rented a car from Europcar and then drove. Paestum is 100 km from Naples airport which is about a 1 hour and 40 minute drive.
If you book a taxi, it may cost you more or less €165, about the same as a rental car.
Insider tip: If you drive from Naples airport, leave time to stop at other landmarks. Herculaneum and Pompeii are also along the route.
Stazione Napoli Centrale – Naples has a large central station and can be easily reached by Milan, Rome, Florence, Bari and all major cities in Italy.
From the Naples airport, there is a 15-minute airport train to the Napoli Centrale Station and costs €5 (one-way).
To arrive at your coastal town, you will then have to get a local train.
From Napoli Centrale Station the train to Paestum takes about 1 hour 20 minutes and costs €6.50 (one-way).
Where to stay
Many thanks to Il Rifugio at The Pinelli Estate for hosting us and sharing the colors and flavors of Cilento with us during our visit to Campania.
You may also be interested in reading:
- Luxury Country House in Italy Wine Country of Cilento
- Cilento: Discovering the Undiscovered
- Mid-Summer Night in Italy: Evening Events 2018
Article and photos by Celia Abernethy