Never did I expect to see Greek Temples in Italy. I thought I’d have to go to Greece and that just wasn’t possible right now. But…if you take a trip about an hour and a half south of Pompeii by train you can visit the most intact Greek temples in the world. Paestum is an early Greek settlement which was then taken and re-settled by the romans but they kept the temples intact dedicating them to their own gods. They have stood for centuries. The first thing that came to mind when I saw them was…WOW!.
There are three temples at this sight and they are massive. The picture above gives you a sense of how large these structures are. When you stand beside one of the pillars you are completely dwarfed by the structure. They were built to hold the statue of the god or goddess that was worshipped in the temple. It was the god’s home and was built on a massive scale to invite the presence of the god. The one above is called the Temple of Neptune although they do not know which god was worshipped here.
Architects in the 1700 and 1800’s would come here to study the construction of the temples and then used them in designs that became part of major cities across Europe and in the United States. These were Doric structures and the Temple of Neptune is a very pure form of this architectural style.
Across from the Temple of Neptune is the Temple of Hera. There is a modern sculpture of a horse separating the two temples. I don’t know if it is a reference to the “Trojan horse”. The structure is once again Doric but a bit more experimental in design. Can you imagine cutting the stones for the lintels, the cross pieces at the top, and positioning them precisely and uniformly? Can you imagine making each column identical to the one standing next to it? These were amazing feats of architecture and construction that have managed to survive until today. It was truly overwhelming.
The third temple is the Temple of Athena and the only one they know for sure was built for that particular goddess. You can see how large they are by the two figures in the lower part of the photo. It is separated by the length of the Roman town of Paestum that now stands in ruins with only the foundations remaining.
We spent the day in Paestum and stopped for lunch at a wonderful restaurant located about a long block from the hustle right outside the site. There were crowds of teens there on school visits and we wanted a more peaceful setting for lunch so walked down the street a bit. This lovely restaurant was located in a 16th C building and was owned by two young guys. We had the ragu with handmade pasta and a really wonderful sauce with slow cooked beef that melted in your mouth. It was dusted with Parmesan cheese and served in colorful ceramic bowls.
The owners were extremely congenial and we had a great time talking with them. They had only been open for eight days. The front of house was very knowledgeable about wines and we tried a red that was local to the area. He had pictures on his phone of the vineyard where the wine was made and happily showed them to us. The chef came out of the kitchen to chat with us and we learned about their life in Paestum and the joy of starting a new business. Their restaurant is called, “Porta Aurea”. If you visit there be sure and stop in. You will enjoy a delightful meal with congenial hosts.
The saying on their wine board says: “Wine doesn’t solve problems…but neither does water!”…a touch of humor to go with your meal.
I leave you with a last view of the Temple of Hera with the sun overtop like a star. The temples are truly the stars of Paestum.
3 thoughts on “Paestum: Greece in Italy”
Oh wow; that is so neat! I would not have thought of looking for some old word ancient Greece in Italy either. Though we did get to visit the Athena Parthenon replica in Tennessee and I would never have thought Nashville would have a nod to the Greek gods either.
I know what you mean. I have visited the Parthenon in Tennessee also and it was really interesting. The real temples in their natural site are amazing. Thanks for visiting and sharing.
Thanks for sharing at SSPS 259 – As I could not find a tweet spot, I copied the link and tweeted it anyway. Please do check back on Monday to see if listed under the top 15 of by a co-host. Hope to see you going forward on a regular basis.