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Did you know...? These parts of Italy were once part of ancient Greece

The Local Italy
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Did you know...? These parts of Italy were once part of ancient Greece
The Greek Temple of Concordia in Agrigento, Sicily. Photo by ludovic MARIN / AFP.

If you've explored the south of Italy, you'll know that much of it is littered with Greek ruins thanks to the region's history as an ancient Greek colony.

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From Sicily to Calabria, Puglia, Campania, and stretching as far north as Basilicata, once you start looking for traces of the ancient Greeks in southern Italy you'll find them everywhere.

'Magna Grecia', as the Romans called it, 'Great[er] Greece', started being settled by the Greeks from around the eighth century BC as they searched for new commercial opportunities and fled domestic crises at home.

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While you might be familiar some of the better-known Greek settlements in Sicily - like Syracuse (Syrakousai), home to the mathematician Archimedes, or Agrigento (Akragas), which boasts well-preserved Greek temples - Greek rule over Italy stretched far north of the Mediterranean island.

Some of the more major Greek cities on mainland Italy included Rhegion - modern day Reggio Calabria - Croton (Crotone), which was said to have the best physicians in Greece and where Pythagoras founded a religious community; and Taras (Taranto).

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If you visit the site of Paestum in Campania - these days little more than a seaside resort - you'll find three excellently-preserved Greek temples, along with an amphitheatre and ancient paved roads that are still in use.

And if you've ever explored the network of underground tunnels that form a labyrinth underneath the city of Naples, you're walking in quarries first excavated by the Greeks in the sixth century BC to construct Neápolis - the 'new city'.

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There are even some Italian villages today in Puglia's southern Salento peninsula and in Calabria where an old Italot Greek dialect called 'Griko' or 'Grico' is spoken.

Some say its speakers came to Italy from Greece in the Byzantine era, while others say Griko has its roots in the language spoken by the original Greek settlers who came over almost 3,000 years ago.

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