Paestum – Cool Ruins & Buffalo di Mozzarella - Sunday, October 12, 2003

The weather was perfect on our first day in Paestum and turned rainy for the rest of our visit. Luckily we chose to visit the ruins on our 1st day and were able to get some pretty nice photos of “the best preserved collection of Greek ruins anywhere,” as the guidebook says. Paestum (originally Poseidonia) was founded by Greeks in ~ 600 B.C. and remain so well-preserved because malaria-carrying mosquitoes kept the site deserted for 1000 years!

The key ruins at the site are three temples: Temple of Hera, Temple of Neptune (better preserved than the Parthenon in Athens), and Temple of Ceres. Pretty impressive. We spent about two hours at the site just wandering around this ancient city. It was crazy to see remnants of in-tact tile floors from someone’s home. Eerie!! Also, lizards were EVERYWHERE both at the site and on the farm. You take a step, and 4-5 of them scurry out of the pathway.

After wandering the ruins, we visited the nearby museum which contained prehistoric Greek and Roman artifacts.
Especially interesting were the ancient Greek tombs. The four interior walls were painted in a distinct style. These are some of the best-preserved examples of Greek paintings, which are very rare, in the world.

We hiked a few miles with backpacks (it seemed like 10 miles) to the Seliano Estate for Agriturismo where the owners raise horses and water buffalo. This area of Italy is renowned for producing the best buffalo mozzarella and butter in the country. Dating from the 12th Century, mozzarella di buffalo tasted so good because it’s made from full cream buffalo milk. This is not the pizza cheese from Pizza Hut or Kraft shredded cheese from the grocery store.

The Agriturismo is owned by a baroness and she is considered a world-renowned Napolean chef. She and Arthur Schwartz, food critic, radio personality, and cookbook author, gives cooking classes 4X/year at the farm. Missed out on that one, but we did enjoy tasty, cheap, 4-course dinners for a few nights at the farm.

For dinner, there were usually between 15-20 people at the table each night and conversation was most interesting. First course consisted of smoked or fried buffalo mozzarella (Marisa's new favorite food). Next course was pasta or risotto, then meat, then dessert with café. The excellent, local, organic wine bottles were refilled as quickly as they were emptied. One evening we befriended Linnea and her son Angus. They live in NYC but are shacking up in Rome for a few months while Linnea’s husband Sandy (head of props) works on a film about Jacques Cousteau’s life (directed by Wes Anderson, starring Bill Murray and Luke Wilson). Our not-so-close brush with Hollywood… How fun to hang out in Rome for a few months!

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