Capaccio-Paestum in the region of Campania. It is also the doorway to the Cilento National Park.

View of hot air balloon festival and the Tyrrhenian Sea from Capaccio

View of hot air balloon festival and the Tyrrhenian Sea from Capaccio

I grew up listening to my grandmother tell stories of her hometown though she often ended her stories with "ah, but there's nothing there now." She left in 1937, when the region was still very poor. Now things have changed and her hometown, my ancestral hometown where I still have many cousins, and Capaccio-Paestum is an extraordinary place for food, wine and art lovers.

The most famous site for tourists in Capaccio-Paestum are the temples of Paestum. Built for what was then the Greek city of Poseidonia, the city became known as Paestum when the temples were used by the Romans. The temple complex was abandoned during the Middle Ages when the local population fled to the hill towns and founded Caput Aquis which later became Capaccio. Today, the archaeological park and museum are one of Italy's most important historical sites.

The beaches at Paestum are popular during the summer, but are most famous as the place where the Allies came ashore on September 9, 1943. There's a full bunker that has been undergoing a long preservation and can be visited with special permission.

Guest from our May 2016 food and wine tour walking along the beach at Paestum.

Guest from our May 2016 food and wine tour walking along the beach at Paestum.

On the road up to the medieval city of Capaccio is the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Granato or the Madonna of the Pomegranate. She is likely a Christian iteration of Hera and the pomegranate which was onced worshipped on the temple complex.

And within the village called Capaccio Capoluogo, you can explore labyrinthine streets of both occupied and abandoned ancient homes. Most notable is the now abandoned Palazzo Bellelli where the relatives of Impressionist painter Edgar Degas once lived.  

Remains of Palazzo Bellelli where Degas's aunt Laura lived with her husband Gennaro Bellelli

Remains of Palazzo Bellelli where Degas's aunt Laura lived with her husband Gennaro Bellelli

Because Capaccio-Paestum is in a mostly agricultural area, the food and wine are spectacular. They're most famous for mozzarella di bufala. Though all of the mozzarella in the area is of the highest quality, the very best mozzarella in Italy is made at Vannulo. Visitors can take a tour of the farm and eat lunch in the restaurant or enjoy a gelato made with buffalo milk.

A buffalo at the Vannulo farm drinking water while a visitor snaps a photo.

A buffalo at the Vannulo farm drinking water while a visitor snaps a photo.

Right next to Vannulo is La Dispensa, a restaurant and tasting room for San Salvatore, a biodynamic winery.

Lunch at San Salvatore includes all their own organic and biodynamic olive oil, produce, herbs and wine.

Lunch at San Salvatore includes all their own organic and biodynamic olive oil, produce, herbs and wine.

Nearby you can also visit the very elegant tasting room right on the vineyard property. 

Finally, the best place to stay in Capaccio-Paestum is Borgo La Pietraia, our home base for our Cilento food and wine tours. The rooms have been designed to look like a medieval village. The house restaurant "FOOD" serves local Cilento products with a fine dining twist.

Though my grandmother passed away over a decade ago, I'm sure she'd be over the moon happy to know that there is quite a bit now to see in her beloved hometown.

On Saturday, November 5th at 11am ET, join a group of writers focused on Italian wine, food and travel for a Twitter chat about the smaller, less well-traveled towns of Italy. We won't be talking about Florence, Venice and Rome. Instead, we'll be talking about:

Lugana: Italy's (Mostly) Hidden Gem by Martin Redmond, ENOFYLZ Wine Blog

Going Home to Capaccio-Paestum (see below) by Danielle Oteri, Feast On History

A Weekend Guide To Visiting Camogli by Valerie Quintanilla, Girl's Gotta Drink

Norcia: Gastronomic Delights and Tragic Earthquake by Chandi Wyant, Paradise of Exiles

Positively Piceno by Mike Madaio, Undiscovered Italy

Wines on the Island of Sardinia with Vigne Surrau by Jennifer Genitle Martin, Vino Travels

Picturesque Pienza: The Ideal Renaissance Town by Li Valentine, The Wining Hour

(alphabetical by blog name)

Find us on Twitter with the hashtag #ItalianFWT

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