Paestum was founded in the 6th century B.C. by Greek settlers and fell under Roman control in 273 B.C. The city was originally called Poseidonia (in honor of Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea) but was eventually renamed by the Romans who gave the city its present name.

The main features of the site today are the standing remains of three large Doric-style temples. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, these temples are among the best preserved monuments of Magna Grecia, the Greek colony that once covered much of southern Italy. These were dedicated to Hera and Poseidon, although traditionally they have been identified as the basilica and temples of Neptune and Ceres, due to an erroneous historical attribution. Temples were rediscovered in the late 18th century, but the site as a whole was not unearthed until the 1950s.

The historic site also houses a Roman forum, an amphitheatre and an archaeological museum that houses a collection of fascinating decorations for temple facades. The whole area is especially beautiful in the spring, when temples appear surrounded by meadows of colorful wildflowers. Lacking the crowds of tourists there is a wonderful serenity on the spot.