Great Day Trips from Rome: Palestrina

Great Day Trips from Rome: Palestrina

Rome offers visitors so much to do, but like many capital cities, leaving it is sometimes the best way to discover what the country you are visiting is really like.

Palestrina is one of the many towns worth discovering in Lazio.  About 40 minutes east of Rome, it was once a popular summer escape for the Roman elite and a great place for you to escape and relax for a few hours.

In Roman times it was known as Praeneste, home to Italy’s largest sanctuary; consisting of 5 terraces built up the hillside in a pyramid-shape, each connected by staircases and ramps, on a good day, it could be seen as far away as Rome.  At the top, was the Temple of Fortuna Primigenia, home to an oracle.

Steps between the terraces in the sanctuary

Eventually the modern town built up around it, but an impressive amount of the sanctuary remains.  

You can arrive in the town by car (and drive to the top), or by COTRAL bus from Anagnina Station (check out the times here: https://servizi.cotralspa.it/PercorsiTariffe).  If you take the bus, you’ll get a great work out and some wonderful views on your way to the museum at the top!

Built around the sanctuary, Palestrina is a maze of steps

The museum is housed in the Palazzo Barberini, built on top on the temple right at the top of the sanctuary.  The first 2 floors contain artefacts from the sanctuary, accompanied by clear, informative explanations in Italian and English. 

Many of the rooms of Palazzo Barberini are still covered in frescoes

The real prize of the collection is on the top floor, where you can see a model reconstruction of the sanctuary and the magnificent Nile Mosaic – a 1st BC mosaic showing the river from Ethiopia to the Mediterranean.  Egypt was a popular subject in Roman art at the time, though it is clear that the artist himself had never been there!

The Nile Mosaic once covered the floor of a grotto in the sanctuary.
Below: Details from the mosaic

After visiting the museum, you can visit 2 of the terraces outside.  Go there on a clear day and you can see the town descending below you and get great views out across the surrounding countryside.

For more information on customized day trips from Rome, contact one of our travel experts at: team@italyvacationspecialists.com or check out our  most popular tours in and from Rome here.

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