Posted by on 18 Feb 2023
Rome is popular for its grand architecture and magnificent sights, such as the Colosseum and St. Peter's Basilica. But beneath its veneer of grandeur lies ancient and mysterious corners.
Apart from Rome’s famous attractions, the city is also home to unusual and mystical places that aren’t perceptible at first glance.
And it’s no surprise: Rome had a history of strange occurrences during the Renaissance.
If you’re tired of doing generic city tours or your typical weekend beach getaway and are looking for mysterious places to experience, this is your sign!
It’s time to venture off the beaten path and get a new perspective on the ancient city. In this blog, we’ve listed some of the most unusual places to visit in Rome.
The Vatican Necropolis is found five stories beneath St. Peter’s Basilica and is one of the best-kept secrets of Vatican City. The site is a huge network of underground graves and mausoleums, including the alleged tomb of St. Peter the Apostle.
The burial grounds are limited to only 250 visitors per day to preserve the archeological site from decay. Keep in mind that tickets need to be booked in advance and you must observe the proper dress code otherwise you may be denied entry.
Suitable attire means skirts below your needs and trousers for women, and trousers for men. Shoulders must be covered for everyone.
Get up close and personal with the dead and see Emperor Constantine’s Temple and tombs from Pagan and Christian burial grounds in the flesh.
Museo delle Anime del Purgatorio
While strolling through the Prati neighbourhood, you may come across a small museum on the bank of the Tiber River called the Museo delle Anime del Purgatorio (or the Museum of the Souls of Purgatory).
As the name suggests, the place exists to convince visitors that Purgatory is real and that their dearly departed need their prayers.
The museum has an interesting backstory: in 1897, a fire broke out in a small chapel. After the smoke cleared, Fr. Victor Jouët noticed the image of a sad, suffering face on the church’s walls. It later inspired him to construct a church in the same spot dedicated to the souls in Purgatory.
One of the most special yet spine-chilling places to visit in Rome is the Capuchin Crypt, sometimes called the “Bone Church of Rome.”
Both obscure and fascinating, the crypt comprises a series of small chapels beneath the church of Santa Maria Della Concezione dei Cappuccini, which is decorated with the bones of over 4,000 people.
The Capuchin Order believes that the remains of the former friars serve as a poignant reminder of the passage of time and how life is temporary. The heritage site also includes a museum devoted to the history of the Capuchin friars.
Largo di Torre Argentina
Many visitors to Rome will walk through Largo di Torre Argentina unaware of its tragic history. The archeological wonder is found between Rome’s ghetto and the Pantheon—the same area where Julius Caesar met his unfortunate end on the ides of March in 44 BC.
The ruins rise up like an apparition in the city square and are home to hundreds of stray cats that now reside in the place where Caesar was assassinated. A small crowd usually gathers at the square to watch the felines sunbathe and stretch on the ancient pillars and steps.
Though it may be rare to peek through a keyhole without risk of arrest, the Aventine Keyhole offers a dash of mystery away from the bustling crowds.
It is built into a door on a hill and has an unobstructed view of St. Peter's Basilica. Rows of beautifully manicured hedges also surround it.
The doorway leads to the Priory of the Knights of Malta, a lay religious Catholic order. Even though the keyhole seems to line up perfectly with the Vatican, it’s unknown if it was designed on purpose or just a lucky coincidence.
The Mouth of Truth
Have you ever heard of the ancient lie detector called The Mouth of Truth? The legendary sculpture is found in the portico of Santa Maria in Cosmedin Church, and it’s an ancient stone carving that’s said to bite off the hands of liars.
The ancient carving has a diameter of 1.75 metres and bears the same appearance as Poseidon, the god of the sea.
Though the origins of the stone carving is still up for debate, there is a superstition that the pagan visage was used during trials in the Middle Ages. The accused would place their hand inside the “mouth,” and if they were guilty of lying, a mysterious axeman would chop off the person’s fingers unceremoniously.
Even though it is famous among Romans, this “magic door” often goes unnoticed by tourists. But those with discerning eyes would spot Porta Alchemica in the central district of Piazza Vittorio.
The portal contains ancient symbols and inscriptions and was built in the early 1600s. Legends claim that the Porta Alchemica is the last door to Palombara’s villa. The doorway is inscribed with an indecipherable “recipe” by an alchemist who once claimed to use herbs to turn metal into gold.
The Door of Death
The St. Peter’s Basilica has five main doors, one of which is called The Door of Death, aptly named because it used to be the exit for funeral processions.
The Door of Death dates back to 1964, and it is the only work of art in the basilica that was created by an atheist. It depicts images related to death, including the deaths of Jesus Christ, St. Joseph, and Pope Gregory VII.
Even though the door looks somewhat unsettling, it was designed as a reminder of the fragility of life and the natural tendency of people to turn violent.
Embark on Your Next Spooky Adventure
Are you ready to unveil the mystery behind Rome’s mysterious places to visit? If you’re looking for new, mystical destinations to travel to, it’s time to discover the hidden attractions in the Eternal City.
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