8 Mysterious Places to Visit in Rome

During the Renaissance period the city of Rome became a place of strange happenings. It became the gathering place for artists and alchemists, astrologers and philosophers.
 
Read on and you will discover mysterious places where ghosts of the past still appear. You will learn of old legends handed down since ancient times.
 
If you like the world of mystery and the occult, let me be your roman “cicerone”. We will unpack the influence of magic, occult and obscure places of Rome.

1. The House of Horrors: a doll hospital


 

<img>

Showcase by Gary Jones – Wikimedia Commons

A stone’s throw from Piazza Navona, you will step inside a place that is a must-see. It is a “sanatorium” that belongs to the family of Federico Squatriti.
 
This little hospital known by the Romans as “the house of horrors” is actually a small ancient shop.
This tiny workshop presents a disturbing window display full of heads, legs, arms of broken dolls and usually this view frightens those passing by.
 
In this place time seems to have stopped. Here you will find forgotten objects, puppets and porcelain dolls but also broken spare parts.
 
Federico and his mother Gelsomina take care of all the dolls.
They restore and return the dolls to their rightful owners. All the dolls returned have a strange medical record accompanying them.
 
It’s a unique place that preserves a surreal and magical atmosphere where it could be possible to have strange encounters or not!
Located at Via Ripetta n. 29
This unique shop is open from Monday to Saturday from 8.00 am to 19.00 pm

2. Santa Maria della Concezione: the museum of the underworld

<img>

The Crypt by Tessier – Wikimedia Commons

If the 4,000 bones collected from an old cemetery of Capuchin Friars do not frighten you then you should definitely visit this beautiful church.
 
Walking through the church you will notice its magnificent Baroque style. Here you will discover and appreciate the beautiful Caravaggio hidden inside the church.
 
But, the true attraction of the church remains the Crypt of the Capuchin Friars, a place wanted by the Friar Barberini.
The friar asked to organize the exhumed bones in an “artistic” way. He wanted to remind everyone that the fragile human body is only a container for the soul.
 
We were like you and you will be like us” this is the message that you can find at the entrance of this ossarium. Doesn’t that feel creepy enough?
 
From this point on, the corridor will lead you to a series of dark tunnels that cross to give life to a real museum.
 
Here, on display in the walls of the five caves, you will find sculptures, mosaics, drawings, and pieces of art made with the old exhumed bones. But also whole skeletons wearing the famous friars’ clothes.
located in Via Vittorio Veneto 27
open every day from 9.00 am – 7.00 pm
ticket price for adults is €6, €4 for children & concession

3. The Devil’s Chair: an ancient square

<img>

The Devil’s Chair by Pyt1966 – Wikimedia Commons

In Rome there are many places frequented by obscure presences. One of these is the famous “Chair of the devil“.
This mausoleum is known by a large throne with armrests, which looks suitable to accommodate the evil forces.
 
This chair was once part of Elio Callistio’s mausoleum. He was a freedman favoured by the Emperor Hadrian. 
The structure overlooked a very large green field in an uninhabited area, yet today it is completely surrounded by the buildings of the African Quarter in Rome.
 
According to the legend, you must identify all the letters engraved on the “chair” to be able to make a wish. Take a peek and try to find all the letters of the word “kabala”.

My top tip

If you wish to take a break you should stop over at the “Devil’s Chair Risto-Pub. The risto-pub stays opened lunch and dinner every day of the week.

 This fantastic place has a cellar with good craft beer and here you can find top quality food. If you decide to eat here you must try my favourite Satanasso burger – “Satanasso” meaning evil!

Visit their website here
Find it at Via Tripolitania 190 near Piazza Amba Alagi

4. The Colosseum: the door of death

<img>

The Colosseum by Ragusaibla – Wikimedia Commons

The perimeter of the Colosseum is made up of 80 arches.
76 numbered arches allowed the crowd to enter and leave the Colosseum while the  other 4 remaining doors positioned at the cardinal points, allowed access to famous personalities of the city. Vestals and authorities and the emperor entered through this doors.
 
The most famous doors known are:
  • The “Door of Life” in which the gladiators entered and left triumphant;
  • The “Door of death”, reserved for the exit of the lifeless bodies of the gladiators fighting towards the “spolarium.
 
In ancient times, those two entrances were very suggestive for the public. They were the doors that allowed the flow of life and the death.
The Colosseum is located in Via Piazza S. Maria Nova, 53 
basic ticket allows access to Colosseum, archaeological area of ​​Roman Forum & all exhibits
It is valid for two days and can be purchased HERE for € 12

5. Archconfraternity of St. Mary of Prayer and Death: the house of bones

<img>

View of the Church by Croberto68 – Wikimedia Commons

The house of bones, this is the name that I’ve attributed to this church and you will notice it too. Especially when you will find yourself admiring the two skulls above the entrance and not to mention the winged skeletons engraved on the outer walls of the building.
 
Built in 1576, this mysterious church turned into an honorable burial for all those bodies abandoned in the city of Rome. Over time, approximately 8,000 bodies were buried inside the church. Unfortunately during the reconstruction of the church in 1886, all the rooms tore apart and the only remaining room today is the crypt.
 
Upon your visit a friar will take you inside the crypt where you will be able to admire piles of carved skulls arranged on shelves. You will see many skeletons and bones placed to form a cross or even some obscure spinal-shaped chandeliers.
You can visit the Church only if you make a small donation.
Unfortunately you can’t take pictures, especially in the crypt itself.
Located at Via Giulia n. 262
Due to ongoing Restoration, contact Primicerio Monsignor Guido Charvault at the followiing number: 06.68802715 to organise a visit to the cemetery

6. Lacus Curtius: an ancient Forum

<img>

View of the altar by MM – Wikimedia Commons

Here we are! In this ancient site of the Roman Forum, you will find this mysterious area called Lacus Curtius (known also as Lake Curtius).
The lake presents a small outdoor sanctuary, and a famous gate that connects humans with the afterlife.
 
Many legends tell the story of how this place became the point of contact with the underworld. The presence of a trapezoid-shaped depression in the ground actually confirms the presence of a lake during the ancient times.
 
According to a famous myth, a bolt opened a chasm in the lake. This opening enabled the water to flow away, revealing the doors of a mysterious passage.
 
This was a sacred place dedicated to worship and prayer. A place where emperors would hide in case of need with the help of the underworld. In this place, ancient Romans made sacrifices to gain the favor and the benevolence of the gods.
Check the opening times  here for more information
You can buy the tickets here to avoid the queue!

7. The Temple of Thoth: esoteric shopping in Rome

<img>

Esoteric book by DVJ – Wikimedia Commons

Tucked away from the chaotic city of Rome, you will find the Temple of Thoth. 
 
Here you will find unusual and esoteric objects. From tarots and sibyls cards, genuine talismans, books and manuals, incense and pendulums. All the different instruments that you may need to understand the magic and esoteric world.
 
If you ask, the store owner, Valeria, will explain to you the history of every object and how it’s used.
 
Open from Monday to Friday 9.00 am – 5.00 pm
located in Via Palmiro Togliatti n. 1607/A,  close to the Ponte Mammolo underground station

8. The Church of San Bartolomeo all’Isola

<img>

The entrance by Jose Antonio – Wikimedia Commons

This strange place of worship located on the Tiber Island hides some mysteries. At the center of the presbytery of the church there is a well. When it was discovered by archaeologists, the well contained the remains of corpses belonging to two martyrs. How did they get in there? Who threw them?
In the Chapel of the Church, you will discover the headquarters of the “Sacconi Rossi” congregation. This is an organisation devoted to the collection of corpses abandoned on the banks of the Tiber. But the mystery doesn’t end here…
In a small chapel on the sides it is possible to admire a very particular painting.
Here you will find the Immaculate Madonna portrayed as Aladdin, the genius of the lamp. Then in the “Sacramento” chapel you can admire a cannonball stuck along a wall of the building. The decorations are bizarre to say the least!
For more information about the history of the basilica click HERE
Open Monday to Friday 10: 00 -12: 30