If you’ve ever heard of the majestic hilltowns near Rome, you may have also heard of Palestrina, home to the ruins of a once great Hellenistic temple called the Sanctuary of Fortuna Primigenia. The treasures that were discovered here have shed light on a very ancient civilization and its religious rituals, primarily just the great labor and expense that the ancient peoples would make to show devotion to their beliefs.
Particularly interesting in Palestrina is how such a seemingly isolated town acquired its riches, through a well-trafficked trade route with Egypt. This brought not only wealth to the inhabitants, but very exotic imports as well as culture and exposure to the world beyond the Italian Peninsula.
Today the small town of Palestrina sits humbly atop its hill, gazing out onto the vast valley below and a few of the sea far in the distance. As far as understanding time before and after the conquests of the Ancient Roman Empire, Palestrina holds a lot of keys to those secrets.
If you’re visiting Rome for a few days, take a day to explore one of the areas outside the city, whether you head to Tivoli to visit Villa d’Este or the Dying City of Civita di Bagnoregio. Take time for Pompeii, or delve deeper into the Etruscan history by visiting Cerveteri or Tarquinia. If you visit any of the spots we mention, share a post and tag us @romeaccommodation for a chance to be featured on our social media channels!
How to Reach Palestrina
Palestrina is located about 40 kilometers east of Rome in the beautiful and ventilated Lazio countryside. It’s not an area that is very well serviced with public transportation, but it is possible to arrive by bus. Check the Cotral website for bus times that leave from the Anagnina metro stop.
Otherwise a car or private transfer is the way to go. Driving to Palestrina will take less than an hour from anywhere in Rome, and it’s a welcome respite from the chaos of the city.
If you’re staying in an vacation rental managed by ROMAC and would like any assistance arranging a day transfer to Palestrina (or anywhere else), just drop us a note and we’ll be happy to organize your trip!
What to See in Palestrina
Palestrina is most well known for the ruins of the Sanctuary of Fortuna Primigenia and the city’s national archeological museum. The ruins visible today were originally constructed in 120 BC and dedicated to the oracle Praenestine lots. The temple features several stories of grand terraces, temples, and porticos constructed in a Hellenistic style, inspired by the temples of Greece.
In the 17th century, the Barberini Family took ownership of the city and transformed the ruins of the sanctuary into a private home. Most indulgent is the entrance to the palace, adapting a semi-circular outdoor amphitheater as the stairs to enter the building. The archeological museum is located on three floors inside the palace. Your ticket (€5 per person) grants access to visit all three floors as well as the outdoor terraces that overlook the valley. The number of guests visiting the terraces at a time is limited, so you may have to visit them before or after you visit the museum itself.
The museum hosts many of the archeological artifacts found during excavations of the sanctuary. Marble busts and statues that adorned the temple, precious marbles as well as daily items that illustrate the kind of life the habitants lived. Bronze canisters that held personal grooming items and mirrors demonstrate the wealth the citizens of ancient Palestrina enjoyed.
Out on the terraces, you can still gaze out over the stunning view that this place has seen for over 2,000 years. You can easily reconstruct the porticos that lined the hillside and even admire a few ornately decorated marble columns.
Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Palestrina
Piazza della Cortina
00036 Palestrina (Rm)
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Have you visited Palestrina? Share your experience in the comments below!