Day 5 – Paestum

Daily Wrap-Up

One Word
  • Barb: Evocative
  • Mike: Impressive
  • Jen: Patterns
Two Words
  • Barb: Snaggletooth mascot
  • Mike: Undisturbed viewing
  • Jen: Puzzle pieces
Three or Four Words
  • Barb: Two—handled jar
  • Mike: Two temples not enough?
  • Jen: Smoke, wind, rain
One Sentence
  • Barb: Step into my atrium; let me welcome you in my tablinum.
  • Mike: How do you lose a place like this?
  • Jen: How did they get those heavy slabs of marble way up there?
Paestum: Temple of Neptune and corner column

The remains of a corner column and the Temple of Neptune.

Paestum is an ancient Greek site from the 6th century BC. It was not buried in volcanic ash and is not as well preserved as Pompeii. It’s also older. The Greeks called it “Poseidonia,” the City of Poseidon, but the Romans took over the city and renamed it in the 3rd century BC.

The city fell into decline and was abandoned in the 9th century AD, and it apparently disappeared into swampland. As Mike’s one-sentence summary indicates, we’re puzzled by how a place like this can just up and get lost, but somehow it did. It was rediscovered in the 1700s, and yet somewhere along the line, people chose to put a road on top of half of the amphitheater.

Did the earth and amphitheater sink? Did weeds and trees grow up over it? Or did road builders cover the amphitheater with fill?

Today’s themes: Permanence, Puzzle Pieces, the Paestum Pucio


When I think of the house Mike and I built, the things I write, and the things I make, I don’t envision them surviving far into the future. I don’t collect and save things. I even say somewhat frequently “nothing’s permanent” or “nothing lasts forever.” In part, I think it’s a way of letting go, moving on, and accepting change. And I know it helps me complete projects: It suggests I can change my mind in the future, which I find comforting.

Paestum: Temple of Athena

The Temple of Athena.

Seeing these ancient remnants, however, gives me pause. Am I missing something because of my short-term vision?

A wise woman (Gayle Horton) once scolded me for poo-pooing the significance of a bookmark I’d stitched. “You never know what’s going to survive and become an heirloom,” she said.

She was right; I knew it then, and I’m reminded of it now.

When the Greeks were building these temples and houses, did they imagine people visiting them 2,500 years later?

Puzzle Pieces

There’s a great Calvin and Hobbes strip where Calvin sets out with great enthusiasm to be an archaeologist. He begins excavating something, working slowly and carefully as archaeologists do. In the end, he concludes “Archaeologists have the most mind-numbing job on the planet.”

Paestum pots pieced together

Ceramic pots recovered from the Paestum site. Some were reassembled from many small pieces. How do you put broken pots back together? Paestum, of course.

I get that, and yet I still think it would be great fun to excavate all the little pieces of a ceramic pot with tiny tools and brushes and figure out how to put them back together again.

The Paestum Pucio

Moments after we parked, before we made our way to the Paestum ticket office, a little snaggle-toothed pooch introduced itself to us. Of course, we introduced ourselves back; we are generally polite people. She was quite filthy, so none of us had a desire to try to pet her, and she didn’t seem to seek such attention, content with friendly banter, conversation, and a good walk.

We called her “Pooch” or “Poochee-o,” which in Italian might be “Pucio.”

Paestum Pooch

The Paestum Pooch. Our companion for the day.

When we came out of the ticket office, Pucio greeted us again, and walked us to the entrance for the ruins, slipping under the fence rather than passing by the guards. She seemed to be our guide, sticking with us the whole way, entertaining herself as we dawdled. (She ran up onto the fenced-off temples and killed a mole by the Temple of Neptune. She didn’t eat the mole, so I figured she wasn’t starving.)

Other visitors arrived and passed by, but Pucio stuck with us.

A group of students arrived and several squatted down, attempting to persuade Pucio to come be petted. She backed away, disappeared around a rocky corner, and caught up with us after they’d passed.

We went inside to the museum. It rained while we were there. As we returned to the car, a now wet and bedraggled Pucio again escorted us. She shivered, which means she had me figured out.

If we had invited her into the car, I believe she would have come gladly. Alas, we did not invite her, much as we might have liked to, so she trotted over to a souvenir stand and curled up under the awning.

I want to believe she belongs to one of the guards and comes to work with him every day. What I really believe, though, is that she’s a stray that does very well for herself but would not refuse a kinder, easier life.

Paestum Amphitheater with Pooch

Hanging with Pooch at the amphitheater…well about one-third of the amphitheater, anyway. The rest is under a road.

Categories: Italy, Travel

7 replies »

  1. This is great! I especially love the shot of the Temple of Athena. I was amused to see the size of Pucio in the photo with you and Barb. (Or should it be Puccio? Puccia, given that she’s a girl?) You see, I had her all figured out from the first photo. But when I saw her juxtaposed with the two of you, I realized I had gauged her size entirely incorrectly.

    Keep enjoying the sites and the history. I know I am.

  2. If it made any sense, I’d pick up Pucia and pack her off to PA. She was great fun.

    Shell, since we’re making up the “pucio” word, I think anything goes, but, yes, an “a” on the end should make it feminine. (We’d already called her Pucio before we knew she was a she.) Then again, there are always exceptions to those rules. As for the double c, I’m not sure. As far as I know, it’s pronounced the same either way: an i or e after a c gives it the “ch” sound.

    She looks to me like a lhasa apso, only about 10 pounds or so. She was scrappy and playful, not precious. She was running and leaping across some stone supports and missed one, falling some two, three, or more feet onto a sloped rock surface that led down to what was once a pool. I gasped and started back to see if she was okay. I hadn’t gone three steps when she reappeared, racing up the slope and around the wall to join us. She’s a tough little thing.

  3. Where r u staying? Above a dry cleaners? Your pants look suspiciously crisp for someone midway through a monthlong trip. The trees in Italy are as iconic as redwoods in CA. Their shape reminds me of butterfly wings.

  4. Ha! Paestum is only Day 5, MB. I’m behind in posting and getting behinder all the time. Today was supposed to be a catch-up day, but I didn’t get too caught up. We’re off and running again tomorrow, with a long day planned in Florence.

    Those trees in front of the Athena temple are Parasol Pines or Umbrella Pines. From a distance, I think they look like Acacia trees. Where are the giraffes?!