Paestum is not the only archaeological treasure in the Cilento National Park, in the province of Salerno. The excavations of Velia, in Ascea Marina, are a real paradise to explore. Located between Agropoli and Palinuro, in a Mediterranean spot of lush olive groves, they form a wonderful combination of archeology and nature.
Origins and history of the excavations of Velia
The ancient city of Elea derives its name from the source of the Hyeel. Founded around 540 BC by a group of Greeks from Focea, the name Velia dates back to the Latin era. In the V century. AD, characters like Parmenide and Zenone decided to found in Velia their philosophical Eleatica school, while the Latins Cicerone and Orazio use it as an ideal destination for their holiday.
Archeological route of the excavations of Velia
The archaeological route starts from the low city, where most of the buildings date back to the Hellenistic and Roman times. The entrance path runs along the 5 km defence wall, built in the 6th century BC. In front of the walls there is a necropolis dating to the I-II sec. A.D.
The Access to the excavations can also be made from the porta Marina sud, protected by a quadrangular tower made in two constructive phases: the first dates back to the 5th century. B.C. and it is made with sandstone blocks located in the lower part, the second is dated to the III century. The road of Porta Rosa is the only example of a Greek arch of the 4th century, a true patrimony of architecture of the time. Crossing it you can visit the Adrien Baths, II sec. BC, where there are various rooms of the calidarium and frigidarium, decorated with a beautiful mosaic describing animals and sea monsters. Continuing, there will be an Asclepius sanctuary, a medical and healing divinity.
Walking in the Velia Agorà is an experience that offers unique emotions. Going to the Acropolis, where there was a sacred area dedicated to Poseidon, there is a theater built in Roman times on the remains of an ancient Greek temple where the Sanctuary of Zeus is preserved. There are also some damaged buildings of the Middle Ages, when a castle was built. From this period there are the Angioin Tower and two churches: the Palatine chapeland the church of Santa Maria.
Velia’s decline came with the gradual abolition of the port that caused the end of trade and economic wealth. With the advent of Christianity, the city became bishopric until the ultimate impoverishment following the Saracen raids. Thanks to its privileged position on a promontory, in the Norman era a tower was built for the sighting of the incursors from the sea. The ancient city has rediscovered a new life thanks to excavations. Begun in 1921, they brought to light the architectural beauties by completely rebuilding the plant. The works have made Velia famous all over the world to be declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996.
How to reach the excavations of Velia
By car from Paestum: take the SS18 and exit to Ascea and continue until Via Porta Rosa / SR447. By train from Paestum: take the regional train to Reggio Calabria and get off to Ascea. From the station take a bus to the direction of Velia. Opening time From July to September: from 9.00 am until one hour before sunset. Weekly closing: Thursday. From October to June: from 9.00 am until one hour before sunset. Weekly Closure: Tuesday. Entrance fee 3 €