Friday, 20 November 2015

Palestrina: The Moose-Serpent and Other Tales


Palestrina, Italy (Palestrina, Italia)
Our plan was to journey from Rome down to Sicily, as we had never been and any research we did into the island made it sound like the place to be. But before we began driving south we stopped in at Palestrina to visit the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Palestrina, which Lonely Planet refers to as "fantastic".
The steep walk up through the centro storico was worth it for the views alone, as you could see out over much of the town. 
At the time, autumn was just beginning and we revelled in the yellow leaves that had fallen along the path to the top. 
The museum itself is inside the seventeenth century Palazzo Colonna Barberini (that name ring a bell?), which was built atop the highest level of the ancient ruin of the Sanctuario della Fortuna Primigenia. The sanctuary, which was built to honour the goddess of fortune, was constructed in the second century BC. It now lies beneath the modern town, which had built up as the centuries progressed. The museum houses many mosaics, including some featuring odd sea and land animal hybrids!
The star piece is a grand and colourful mosaic depicting the flooding of the River Nile, dating from the second century BC. Unfortunately some gung-ho chaps in the 1600's cut it from its original floor and in so doing ruined large sections of it. Luckily, notes were made on what was shown and the destroyed parts have been largely reconstructed. 
At €5 for entrance, the museum is a steal for all the wonderful items it displays. Yannick particularly enjoyed the story of a sundial, which was so great that it was brought from Sicily to Rome. Long then did they realise that the change in latitude and longitude meant that it now showed the wrong time! I guess they had to learn that lesson sometime. 
To reach the lowest level of the museum, we had to ask at the front desk. A man brought us round to the elevator and in his limited English and our poco Italiano, we discussed the museum's treasures. Once we had examined the Roman tombstones, he indicated with exaggerated gestures that we should walk out and look at the grassy area in front of the palace. 
And again, great views were observed! And from here facing back towards the palace, ruins could be seen, which were once part of the sanctuary. 
We didn't know whether we were meant to return to the museum (the gesturing was vague on that point), but the man was waiting for us when we returned and ushered us back inside. As we had already seen the rest of the museum, it was a tad awkward as we just left via the main entrance after that, but it was kind of him to ensure we weren't missing out. 

Today's post was almost called: I Say Higgins, That's a Splendid Mosaic! Pass Me the Hacksaw