What to visit in Paestum

In the northern part of Cilento, Campania, we find an archaeological park where we can visit the remains of the best-preserved Greco-Roman city in Italy. This is Paestum, best known for its temples: it offers visitors a unique testimony to life at the time of Magna Graecia and the Romans. How to buy tickets to visit it and how to get there?

What to see in Paestum

Paestum is an ancient settlement of Magna Graecia, which arose in the area north of Cilento at the end of the 7th century BC under the name Posidonia. The name of this early settlement has led to the assumption that the Greek settlers who arrived here wanted to name it after the god Poseidon.

With a ticket for a guided tour of Paestum for small groups, it will be possible to visit:

  • the Archaeological Park, with its three Doric temples still well preserved
  • theamphitheater, which re-emerged mutilated because of the road built in 1829 adjacent to the site: it allowed passing carriages to admire the temples, but it literally cut the amphitheater in half, which later re-emerged
  • the Paestum Archaeological Museum, which houses the remains found in the houses, temples, tombs and amphitheater

The two-hour tour will allow you to discover what everyday life was like in a city in the days of Magna Graecia and the Romans, thanks to the presence of an archaeological guide. The ticket can be cancelled and fully refunded within 24 hours of the tour and allows you to skip the line at the entrance. The meeting point for the tour depends on the language chosen for the guided tour (available in Italian, English, French, Spanish, and German); for the guided tour in Italian you will find your guide at the museum ticket office, recognizable by a sign.

Since this is a walking tour of a couple of hours, comfortable shoes and clothing are recommended. Especially if you book your visit in summer, it is highly recommended to bring water and sun protection, such as a hat and glasses. Due to the shape of the archaeological site, the visit is not suitable for people with reduced mobility or in wheelchairs, and animals are not allowed.

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The Valley of the Temples in Paestum

The excellent state of preservation of this Greco-Roman city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, makes it possible to walk through the streets once inhabited by settlers and then by the Romans-who renamed it Paestum in 273 B.C.-but today one of the major attractions of the archaeological site is undoubtedly the three temples.

These are three Doric-style buildings dedicated to Greco-Roman deities:

  • the Temple of Neptune, possibly named after this god from whom the city’s first name, Posidonia, would also descend
  • the Temple of Ceres or Athena
  • the Temple of Hera, also known as the Basilica because of its structure.

All three were built around the 6th century B.C., when the city took on its present appearance.

The Diver’s Tomb

Among the remains preserved in the Paestum Archaeological Museum we find one of the very few examples of Greek figurative painting. Most of the paintings dating from Ancient Greece are in fact vascular, that is, on vessels such as amphorae.

The frescoes that decorated the walls of this tomb, whose panels – called metopes – have been transferred to the museum, depict scenes of a symposium, that is, a banquet.

The tomb slab, on the other hand, shows a figure diving, hence the name by which it is known. It is believed that, unlike the frescoes, in this case the meaning is metaphorical and alludes, given that this is an example of funerary art, to diving into the beyond.

The discovery of this tomb dates back to 1968, and occurred during excavations of the necropolis, i.e., burial sites, around Paestum, coordinated by Mario Napoli.

What to see around Paestum

Cilento, or the area where Paestum is located, is a place rich in history and biodiversity, where you can visit archaeological and natural parks. In particular, with a ticket to Paestum and Velia, which can be purchased here, you can visit:

  • the Valley of the Temples
  • the Archaeological Museum of Paestum
  • the remains of the archaeological area of Velia.

The latter was a city of Magna Graecia founded in about 540 B.C. by Phocaean colonists exiled by the Persians and is best known for being the site of the philosophical school of Parmenides and Zeno.

The rediscovery of this site dates back to Amedeo Maiuri’s excavations in 1921, and there is the oldest example of a pointed arch in Italy, namely the so-called Porta Rosa.

The ticket to visit Paestum and Velia also allows you to skip the line and gain access without long waits to the remains of these two sites to discover what daily life was like two and a half millennia ago.

In the southern part of Cilento, on the other hand, you can visit Cape Palinuro, a rocky promontory known for its crystal-clear sea, breathtaking scenery and literary reminiscences: the name takes up that of Aeneas’ helmsman, who in Virgil’s narrative fell into the sea, a victim of sleep, right from here and, once ashore, was killed by the local inhabitants.

Visiting Paestum from Naples

If you want to travel to Paestum from Naples, you can purchase an entrance ticket to the Archaeological Park and a round-trip train ticket, which also grants priority access once in Paestum. The activity, considering the travel, lasts one day and is nonrefundable. Departure is from Napoli Garibaldi station, and one day before booking you will be contacted via Whatsapp or email by the agency to receive all details regarding ticket collection and meeting point.

You will also be able to select the smart audioguide option when booking, to conveniently download the history and description of the most important points of the archaeological site to your smartphone.

The area in which Paestum is located, Cilento, with the National Park of the same name, the Sele River that runs through it and the archaeological site of Velia, is therefore the ideal destination for a trip full of history, archaeology and natural beauty.

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