The most extensively excavated of Baslicata’s Greek sites, METAPONTO was settled in the eighth century BC and owed its subsequent prosperity to the fertility of the surrounding land – perfect for cereal production (symbolized by the ear of corn stamped on its coinage). In about 510 BC, Pythagoras, banished from Kroton, established a school here that contributed to an enduring philosophical tradition. Metapontum’s downfall came as a result of a series of catastrophes: absorbed by Rome, embroiled in the Punic Wars, sacked by the slave-rebel Spartacus, and later desolated by a combination of malaria and Saracen raids.

Metaponto today is a straggling, amorphous place, lacking much charm but with sandy beaches at Metaponto Lido that attract holiday-makers in summer. There’s a train station at Metaponto Scalo, and Metaponto Borgo, some 800m from Scalo and 3km northwest of Lido, has an important archeological museum, otherwise the place mostly consists of the huge archeological park and modern villas, apartments and hotels.