Paestum – Salerno, Campania, Italy

Some of the World’s Oldest and Best-Preserved Temples

Discovered by accident in the 18th century, Paestum was inhabited for 700 years before falling along with the ancient Roman Empire in its final days. On a flat coastal plain that Percy Bysshe Shelley called “inexpressibly grand” are some of the ancient oldest.

Of the two sun-bleached limestone world’s most glorious ruins, and possibly the pieces de resistance here, the Basilica is one of Western civilization’s earliest standing edi­fices. A temple dedicated to Hera, the wife of Zeus, it dates from the 6th century B.C and is one of Europe’s best preserved.

Next to it stands the famous Temple of Neptune, consid­ered one of the ancient world’s largest and most beautiful temples. Built around 450 B.C., it is one of the Mediterranean s most complete structures, with only its roof and parts of its inner walls missing and thirty-six Doric columns still vertical.

See Paestum in the late afternoon, when a less harsh Neopolitan light warms their golden stone. Then head to the nearby agriturismo farm and inn of the Baronessa Cecilia Bellelli Baratta, whose 400 water buffalo supply Italy with some of its best mozzarella di bufala.

Guests of her family-run Tenuta Seliano can feast on fresh mozzarella and ricotta daily, as well as a whole cornu­copia of products directly from the farm, prepared to perfection by the baroness herself and served family-style in the garden. This must be why Pliny the Elder referred to the region as Campania Felix—Happy Campania indeed.


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