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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, May 17, 2009

Bit of ancient Greece on Roman turf

Advertiser Staff

PAESTUM, Italy Even if there were no fresh mozzarella cheese on the wide plain in southern Campania, the Greek ruins of Paestum would be reason enough to come.

Paestum was settled around 600 B.C. as part of a wave of Greek expansion around the Mediterranean. It's one of the most intriguing archaeological sites in Italy, part of the Roman Empire's classical Hellenic foundations, and unspoiled enough to make modern-day visitors feel like discoverers.

Paestum's three huge, elegant, Doric-columned Greek temples rise above the plain. The modest entrance across the lane from the museum leads to a landscape of dandelions and clover, where dogs and visitors roam freely.

Sightseers get scant explanation, so it's best to buy a guidebook at one of the shops near the entrance to learn about features such as the large house with a marble pool, an impluvium, for collecting rainwater and the Roman-era amphitheater.

WHAT ELSE: The nearby museum has a rich cache of findings from the Paestum area, including tomb slabs with brightly painted images the most famous of them a fresco of a diver in midair, symbolizing the soul's plunge from this life to the next.

The old stones of Foce Sele lie scattered near the river, surrounded by artichoke fields and pastures where water buffaloes graze a scenic Italian landscape.

IF YOU GO: Paestum is about five miles south of the beach town of Capaccio in the province of Salerno, part of southwestern Italy's Campania region.