Paestum

I'm working on another post about my adventures within Napoli right now, but in case I don't finish that tonight, here is what I did on Wednesday!

In the morning, I made my third attempt to visit Paestum, an ancient Greek city not far from Napoli. I was worried about getting to the train on time but this wasn't a problem because the train was 35 minutes late. When it did arrive, I wasn't entirely sure that I got on the right train. It spent long periods of time stopped in dark tunnels and after a little over an hour I was relieved to see the signs for the Paestum station. The walk to the archaeological site through a Roman wall and serene fields of wildflowers took me about 10 minutes. The modern buildings around the ancient city hardly make up a village and I enjoyed the peace and quiet.

Access to the ruins and a museum are included in the ticket. I opted for the ruins first because the sun was out and I didn't want to take any chances with the weather. Once again, a guidebook provided me with good information on the site and suggested a route through the ruins. Some background: originally called Poseidonia, the city was founded by ancient Greeks around 600 BC. A tribe and then the Romans took over the city in following years. When the Romans moved in they built over the preexisting Greek buildings, but Romans generally respected religious spaces and they left the three Greek temples standing.

I strolled to the top of a hill and reached the Temple of Athena. In ancient times, this was the highest point in the city. Standing at the bottom of this temple was an overwhelming experience for me. I love learning about ancient Roman history but ancient Greek is my favorite and has been for a while.

I continued down one of the main streets. On my left there was another preserved Greek monument; the Romans also respected burials and they built a wall around a memorial. Mysteriously, no bodies were found in this memorial--just vases and 2500-year-old honey.

I took my time getting to the temples on the other end and strolled through the ruins of houses. These buildings were not well preserved and only portions of walls and columns remain. Wildflowers and wild grass grew past my shoulders amongst the crumbling stones. It's sad that not much remains of the buildings, but there was something beautiful about the way the city is returning to the earth.

The two large temples on the other side of Paestum were probably devoted to the goddess Hera. I stood in front of each and marveled at how massive the pillars are. I sat down in front of one of them and attempted to draw a portion of it. I soon discovered that I don't have the patience for drawing buildings but I liked having an excuse to spend more time by the temples.

Ruins thoroughly explored, I went across the street to the museum. I had to fight my way through school groups but it was worth it. The surprisingly large museum holds artifacts from Paestum and nearby sites. These include pottery, statues, and gorgeous paintings. Its most famous painting (pictured below) comes from a Greek-era tomb. I spent an hour wandering around the museum and completely flipped when I saw art of scenes from the Iliad from a Greek temple.

I caught a train back into Napoli in the afternoon. On the way back to my hostel, I stopped in the Toledo Metro station. This station was part of a recent project that beautified many stations with the help of local artists and architects. The Toledo station focuses on the themes of light and water. The walls at the entrance are decorated with classical mosaics in homage to the ruins that were found while the station was being constructed. In front of the mosaics, an escalator goes down into a tunnel covered with blue and white tiles. Occasionally, holes in the ceiling allow you to look up and see outside through a distant window. Screens on the walls on the bottom floor show calm ocean water. It's definitely the most beautiful Metro station I've been in! As I've journeyed around Napoli, I've enjoyed seeing more art stations.