We’re sure you’ve seen plenty of pictures of Rome, maybe you’ve seen a few movies set in the beautiful and ancient city…but have you seen the crypts? Have you heard about the spectacular view through a keyhole? No? Well be prepared to learn a little something about Roma’s more interesting and unique travel spots. Rome has a dark history, as well as some hidden gems that fall a little off the average tourist hit list. We’ve compiled a list of places that will make your trip to the city a little different, and set your experience apart from the others.
The Capuchin Crypt.
Trust us. You don’t want to research photos of this spot before you go; it will completely ruin the awe-inspiring nature of this place. Located under the Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini, you will find a museum dedicated to the Capuchin friars. The monks were quite austere, pious, and intense in their devotion, and might remind you slightly of Franciscan monks, as they share a common background. The museum is a slightly biased though fairly accurate (and incredibly niche) historical tour of the order and their beliefs, though it does nothing to prepare you for the crypt at the end of the tour.
Though crypts can generally have a very sombre and perhaps unsettling quality to them, it’s more the way the Capuchin crypt is…decorated that will leave a lasting impression. There are a few ideas as to who decorated the crypt and why it was decorated the way it is, but the result remains the same: several sets of full skeletons decorate the walls dressed as friars in various poses, a collection of other bones adorn the walls, ceilings and even the light fixtures. Again, for the full effect, it’s best to simply experience this for yourself. A definite gem to include on your itinerary (and cheap at around 6 Euro!).
The Aventine Keyhole.
Much less morbid than the Capuchin Crypt, the next item on our list is one of Rome’s best kept secrets. Where can you get the best view in the city? Through the keyhole on the Aventine hill. Whether it was planned as such or is simply an amazingly picturesque coincidence, the door leads to the Priory of the Knights of Malta; though the building has gone through many notable owners including Alberico II and the Knights Templar.
The structure is presently known as Santa Maria del Priorato and you can only access the beautiful gardens visible through the keyhole by appointment. The keyhole offers a picture-postcard worthy view of the city, with St.Peter’s Basilica perfectly framed around the gorgeous gardens of the church. Bring your camera, though getting a good snap may be a bit tricky.
The Meridian Line of the Gregorian Calendar, St. Mary of the Angels and the Martyrs Basilica.
Functioning as a meridian sundial, and despite one being built in Spain in the 18th century, Pope Clement XI commissioned Francesco Bianchini to construct the meridian line to be used as an official reference point for telling time in Rome, the holy capital. He used the Basilica, which had once been a Roman bath, for the meridian line as a way to symbolize Christianity’s triumph and dominance over the pagan ways of the past (and the Gregorian calendar’s replacement of previous calendars).
Although the sundial is around 300 years old, it still lines up perfectly at noon when a beam of sunlight shoots down onto the line in the centre of the Basilica. The spot where the sunbeam lands is used to gauge the date according to the Gregorian calendar, and the Meridian line (and indeed the Church itself) is not only beautiful but also pretty accurate.