Guidebooks might tell you that the best day trips from Rome are to the north in Umbria and Tuscany. Others might insist you should tour Campania for the day.
However, the real secret is that some of the best day trips are actually quite close to Rome and in the same province of Lazio. One tiny example is Palestrina.
The small town of about 20,000 people is 35 kilometers (21 miles) east of Rome.
While it has some lovely cobblestone lanes, the town is probably best known for its archeological museum set on the site of a massive ancient temple.
Some of the ruins are still visible and served as the foundation for a Renaissance palace which later became the National Archaeological Museum of Palestrina.
Palestrina has been inhabited since the 7th or 8th century BC, so the museum has no shortage of important statues, icons, pottery and more.
One of the most impressive pieces in the collection is a large mosaic depicting the Nile River. The elaborate animals and figures are incredibly well preserved.
But aside from the temple and the artifacts (which I can admittedly only manage in moderation), Palestrina has long been praised for its cool breezes.
If you find yourself in Rome in summer – trust me – you soon learn to appreciate the importance of a cool breeze.
Emperors used to build their summer villas here in order to escape the heat of Rome themselves.
But the town’s most famous son is Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, a Renaissance composer who had a major impact on church music as we still know it today. There is a musical museum dedicated to him in the town center.
The small shady streets might be just the weekend antidote you need when the city become stifling.
The sherbet-colored homes just add to the charm.
We joined the slow-moving groups of residents as they made their leisurely passeggiatas through town.
Palestrina truly is an easy day trip from Rome (with a car), but if you would like to spend more time in the countryside, I highly recommend a night or a meal at La Polledrara.
I discovered Palestrina thanks to Italy Where Else, a young company that organizes experiences and outings in the Rome countryside. They are fabulous and know all of the hidden corners so if you would like a 5% discount, you can use the code “Rome17” when booking.
How to Get to Palestrina
Palestrina is set in the countryside outside of Rome, literally into the side of a steep hill. The easiest way to reach Palestrina is by car, driving along the A1. Exit at San Cesareo and follow the signs to Palestrina.
COTRAL buses leave from the Anagnina (Metro A). It is best to buy a return ticket before leaving the metro station.
Where to Stay in Palestrina
For a quiet retreat that is still close to the center of town, try Villa Finza. The villa is set inside its own private park and the rooms have a rustic design. The owners can even arrange shuttles for guests to explore nearby attractions like Villa D’Este in Tivoli.
For tastefully updated holiday apartments in town, there are the Modern Apartments inside a 19th-century residential building. Each apartment has a kitchen and free Wi-Fi, very close to the town center.
But for the best views and loads of local charm, you should pick the Altavista apartment. There are two bedrooms, exposed wood beams, a balcony, and plenty of contemporary comforts like an iPhone dock.
Note: This post includes affiliate links to companies that I personally use and recommend. If you choose to book, I may receive a small commission.