An Antidote to Winter: Paestum

Temple of Poseidon, west facade

Temple of Poseidon, east facade

When I am in New York in the dog days of winter, with cold and snow and grey the theme of the season, the Italian place I think most of is Paestum.

The Temple of Hera

Why Paestum ?

Temple of Athena

Because Paestum lifts and speaks to my spirit in a way that few other places can.

Paestum offers unearthly enchantment, and each time I am there I cannot believe that such a place exists.

Declared a United Nations World Heritage site, Paestum provides the opportunity — even in mid-summer — to be often quite alone with three extraordinary 6th to 5th century B.C. Greek temples.  Come in winter, as did we, and you will share the site with just one Siamese cat.  A marked contrast to the site’s famous neighbor Pompeii, which for most of the year is over-run and unsustainable.

Were all this not enough, 20th century excavations revealed a number of exceptional public buildings of both Greek and Roman periods including a theater, forum, public buildings, covered market and many charming villas.  It is worth visiting Paestum just for these !

The three temples are circled by a magnificent, unbroken wall cycle (nearly three miles) outside of which lie flourishing vegetable gardens.  When we were there earlier this month, the famous round artichoke of Paestum shared the space with various forms of broccoli.  Wild flowers covered the ground, and the smell of wild mint, fennel and arugula rose up with each step we took.

Behind the site are green rounded mountains that gather shadows in their innumerable folds.

And of course there is the joy – before or after visiting Paestum – of proceeding a few minutes away to what surely is the source for the world’s best buffalo mozzarella.   The buffalos seem pleased to receive visitors, and the organic buffalo milk products here — in this Insider’s favorite destination, one non locals rarely visit — are quite extraordinary. A blog next month will tell the story of our adventures here, and introduce you to more of the lovely animals whose milk produced the delicacies we enjoyed — and we hope, on your next trip to Paestum, you will too.

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