The Archaeological Museum of Palestrina is one of the main part of our Grand Tour of the Roman countryside. Inside, you can find precious historical artifacts from the Republican and Imperial periods of ancient Rome, including the famous Mosaic of the Nile. Outside, the remains of the pagan sanctuary of the Goddess Fortuna, a deity very revered by the ancients. The tour continues with the cavern of fate that will tell you a fascinating story that is lost in the mists of time.
The Archaeological Museum of Palestrina is located in the historic and Renaissance Palazzo Barberini in Palestrina, a town in the province of Rome. The museum is open every day of the week from 9 am to 8 pm. The cost of admission is € 5 but the first Sunday of the month is always free.
Palazzo Barberini has a quite particular logistic position. In fact it was erected on the hill where in ancient times the temple of Fortuna Primigenia flourished, of Hellenistic workmanship and realized around the II century a.C.
The National Archaeological Museum of Palestrina
Due to his very particular position, the Archaeological Museum of Palestrina houses in its halls numerous finds dating back to the same period.
In particular, many finds are those recovered from the necropolis of Selciata and Colombella. You can find funerary bases, cippi, busts, objects of daily use and many others that accompanied the deceased on his last journey to the Hereafter.
The Museum articulates its rooms on three floors. The entire first floor is dedicated to the goddess Fortuna. In particular, there is a statue dedicated to her that was found in the well of the Sortes, together with the statue of Isis of enormous dimensions, completely in marble of Rhodes.
One of the most interesting rooms inside the Archaeological Museum of Palestrina is certainly the one dedicated to the Mosaic of the Nile (or Nilotic Mosaic) which occupies the entire third floor. It is the largest Hellenistic mosaic ever found that brings scenes of life from ancient Egypt, during the flooding of the Nile.
It is a mosaic of the II century BC and was recovered in what was the area surrounding the Sanctuary of Fortuna Primigenia. Inside the mosaic are scenes of daily life from high to low Egypt. The mosaic of the Nile is a “unicum” in the world.
However, this is not certainly the only room of great historical and artistic interest that can be found in the Archaeological Museum of Palestrina. One of the major attractions is undoubtedly the model that re-proposes the temple as it was at the time of its greatest splendor. A faithful reconstruction that can only amaze its visitors for the architectural complexity that the structure had to have.
Very beautiful also the wall frescoes that are found in some rooms and that are part of the ancient structure incorporated inside the Palazzo Barberini.
However, it is not only the historical finds of the Museum that are of great interest but also the structure itself. In fact, the Archaeological Museum of Palestrina rises on what were the walls of the ancient city of Palestrina that had the distinction of being a city built on terraces that degraded from the hill to the plains.
On these walls and on the circular cavea that characterized Palestrina, in the eleventh century the powerful Colonna family began to build a magnificent palace that, later, in 1630 became the property of the Barberini family.
It was their will to keep the structure of the building in a semicircle, like the original one. To paint the interior rooms, however, were called the greatest artists of the time. Even today the frescoes by the likes of Federico and Taddeo Zuccari can be seen in some rooms. Outside the Museum it is still possible to see the remains of the ancient temple dedicated to the Goddess Fortuna.
The Temple of the Goddess Fortuna
Just below the museum, on the large terraces, there are the remains of what was one of the most important pagan shrines for the ancient Romans: The Sanctuary of the Goddess Fortuna.
The cult of the Goddess has very ancient origins and its history, which will be recommended by our local guides, gives it a sort of maternity towards the father of all the gods: Jupiter. The mystery unfolds a little like that of the Santissima Trinità Cattolica, where father and son are the creator of the other.
The Antro delle Sorti
Continuing the guided tour of Palestrina, if the time available allows, you must go to visit the nearby antro delle sorti where the priests, dropping a child in a well, brought to light the wooden tablets (sortes) in which there was the future destiny of the person who had asked to know him was engraved.
The story is really engaging and we leave our guides, much better than us in telling, the pleasure to narrate it to you.
These historical jewels and their exciting stories await you during our Grand Tour of the Roman countryside, where, in addition to history, you can engage in activities in close contact with the locals. A tour that will make you feel part of this place, giving you emotions and a memory that will remain indelible in your heart.