Palestrina is a small town on a hill-top in the province of Rome. It is entirely constructed on the ruins of an ancient temple. Palestrina has over 22,000 inhabitants and gave its name to the ancient Roman consular road Via Prenestina. It was known for its enormous shrine to Fortuna Primagenia.
Palestrina city guide
Palestrina started its existence as an Etruscan settlement called Praeneste. Thanks to its strategic position, it was one of the most important settlements in the area.
World War II bombing destroyed part of the town, but also had a positive effect: It exposed many of the ruins, which nowadays can be seen all over the city of Palestrina. The most important one of these is the Temple of Fortuna Primigenia.
In the 7th century BC the Romans under Lucio Silla destroyed the then flourishing city. Having been reconstructed, it became a popular vacation resort for emperors and other wealthy Romans.
The first time the medieval city Civitas Praenestina was mentioned is in a document from the year 970 AD.
Initially it was a feud of the counts of Tuscolo. Subsequent centuries witnessed several destructions as a result of battles between the Colonna and the Papal State.
From the second half of the 15th century till 1630 Palestrina remained property of the Colonna, who eventually sold it to the Barberini.
Palestrina tourist attractions
The Museo Archeologico is housed in the 17th century Palazzo Colonna-Barberini, formerly the sanctuary of the temple. On display are Etruscan artifacts, Roman tablets, but especially the Nile Mosaic, depicting the course of the river Nile.
Palestrina is practically built inside the ancient Roman temple dedicated to Fortuna Primigenia. The heart of the temple complex, which was spread out over six terraces, is reached by means of a flight of stairs from the central square. A fish mosaic is one of the highlights. The part of the complex opposite the Archaeological Museum is included in the ticket price.
The circular footpath above the museum provides spectacular panoramas.
The Cathedral of Palestrina is dedicated to Sant’Agapito Martire and was also built on top of a pagan temple. The church itself was built in the 9th, the Romanesque bell tower in the 12th century. Highlights are the 15th century marble portal, a number of paintings by Giralamo da Sermoneta and an ancient meridian.
How to get to Palestrina
How to reach Palestrina by public transportation
From Rome: Take the Co.Tra.L bus from the Anagnina (line A) metro station.