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Anagni and Palestrina

I had five days to reschedule toward the end of my trip and didn't want to stray too far from Roma, so I chose three nights in Anagni and two in Palestrina.

Anagni bills itself as the City of Popes, and has some interesting Papal history from the medieval period. It's a small place, everyone seems to know each other (all the baristas know all the B&B owners, for example), and it's a very pleasant place. The Duomo and Papal Palace are separated by a piazza and a flight of stairs, both have access to stunning views of the countryside. Arches mark several street intersections. The medieval town is at the top of the city, and it slopes toward the more modern area, with more shopping and refreshment possibilities, including a COOP grocery. There is a navetta (little bus) that is free, and makes a circuit around the town and fairly far into the outlying neighborhoods; the residents use it a lot. It does not go to the train station, however, B&B owners will pick you up and deliver you to the station at the end of your stay. My B&B was a lovely studio-type room with what could have been a tiny kitchen area, but now holds a countertop and a mini-fridge. The front door opens onto the street. It was like a miniature house, I enjoyed it immensely! The navetta stops running between 12:30 and 3pm every day, otherwise it comes by every 20 minutes.

One of the days was market day, which is always fun, mostly food, clothing and household products. The fresh fruit and produce looked wonderful, but I was leaving the next day and besides, had no cooking facilities.

Moving from the medieval to the classical, Palestrina is home to an enormous sanctuary to Fortuna Primigenia, and the site has been built over so that it is part of the town itself. The Museum (excellent) is in Palazzo Colonna-Barberini and has a mosaic of the Nile River flooding, while people and animals cope with the event. Getting to the sanctuary involves hundreds of steps if you are walking, but there are roads if you have a car or a bike. Even further up the mountain is a church, but I did not get that far.

Palestrina was one of those places where, to leave the city, you can't just retrace your steps in the opposite direction. I walked to where I thought I should catch the bus, but it was the wrong stop, so I walked a bit further, asking at every bar, and found the correct stop about 200 meters further on. After climbing up and down the steps to the sanctuary the previous day, a sloped street was no problem! My last evening in Palestrina there was a festa (still not sure celebrating what), lots of food booths and live music. The town has a lovely public garden/park, lots of interesting piazza, and all those stepped streets! If you like urban hiking, this is a great getaway for an overnight or two.

I left Palestrina at 10am and, after a bus, a train, and another bus, I was in Roma before noon.

Posted by
780 posts

Another terrific and very descriptive report, Zoe. I've really enjoyed your stage by stage reports this summer. If I get the chance, I'll definitely retrace some of your steps.

Posted by
11613 posts

Thanks, Nelly. I am now planning the next trip...

Posted by
6543 posts

Many people travel to Rome only to see the center city. There's an incredible of great sights in rural Rome that are very worth taking time to see.
We stayed at OliveTreeHill.com, an absolutely great B&B. Our host, Ivano, took us to the top of a 1500 foot mountain east of Zagarolo where the Castel San Pietro Romano was. We walked on 3000 year old foot paths halfway down the mountain to Palestrina.
Palestrina was originally a pagan temple, and it had been built over many times. In preparation for the U.S. and French invasion of Rome in WWII, allied bombers bombed Palestrina. Out of the rubble came the ancient temple which has since been fully excavated and turned into a museum going back to Etruscan times.
Zagarolo is another interesting small city outside Rome. The main street is maybe 50' wide, and the buildings on each side are built on 5 and 6 stories of underground floors with deep ravines on each side of the city. Zagarolo is where the Roman soldiers' helmets were made and gymnasiums trained gladiators.
There are just so many great places to see outside Rome.