I don’t want to talk too much about the obvious sights of Rome. Yes, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Colleseum and the Pantheon are impressive but I don’t think you need me to tell you you should visit them (and in case you do, consider yourself told!). Instead I’m going to write about two other things that I think are worth a visit when in Rome.
The Knights of Malta Keyhole
Up at the top of the Aventine Hill, at the end of of Via di Santa Sabina there is a square – Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta, the Square of the Knights of Malta. At first glance the square doesn’t look very interesting. There’s a basilica behind it which is quite pretty and the building to one side has guards standing in front of it but that seems to be all. Oh, and the building with the guards has a big green wooden door in it. That is the door to the gardens of the Knights of Malta and in that door there is a hole, the Knights of Malta Keyhole. Actually, it’s not even a keyhole as such – it’s perfectly round and I doubt very much there is a key that fits in it. But take a look through and you will see, perfectly framed by the trees in the garden, an excellent view of St. Peter’s Basilica. This photo is pretty good but it really doesn’t do it justice – in real life it’s even more spectacular. Well worth the trip up the hill to see, in my opinion.
The Cappuccin Crypt
The Cappuccin Crypt is located beneath the Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini (Our Lady of the Conception of Capuchins) church, also known as Santa Maria della Immocolata (Our Lady the Immaculate). Friars that belonged to the Cappuccin community at the church were buried down there in soil that had been brought from Jurusalem, but they only had a limited amount of soil and so, when they ran out of space, the monks who had originally been buried in the soil were dug up to make room. Then, rather than placing the dug up remains in a tomb or something, the Cappuccin monks chose to do something a little bit… strange. Of the 6 chapels in the crypt, 5 of them are decorated using the bones of more than 4,000 disinterred monks. Some of them have been left whole and can be seen lying or standing around dressed in their monks robes. Others were taken apart and used to make display units for the whole ones or turned into light fittings, wall decorations and even an image of the Grim Reaper on the ceiling of one chapel. It’s fascinating stuff but very, very creepy. Definitely not for the faint hearted! Unfortunately, no cameras were allowed, which is why I took a photo of the outside of the chuch instead, but if you’re interested in seeing what it looks like just ask Google. It’s much more spooky in real life though… an absolute must-see when in Rome.