The ancient city of Messene, about 60 kilometers (37 miles) east of Pylos, dates back to 369 B.C.E. Much of it has been preserved; the city was never destroyed or built over by later settlements. Today it’s a World Heritage Site and a testament to early urban planning, with its many stone buildings and other structures laid out on a grid. Massive fortification walls, as high as nine meters (30 feet) tall, wrap 9.5 kilometers (six miles) around the city and Mount Ithome, where religious shrines once stood. The site’s archaeological excavations, now restored or reconstructed, extend downhill from the modern village of Mavrommátion; among them are the agora (gathering place), a theater and the temple of Asklepios, the Greek god of medicine. Messene’s ancient Greek stadium is amazingly intact—look for the VIP seats, with legs that end in carved lion paws. Messene’s archaeological museum displays vases, statues and other items of historic interest found here.

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