Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Spooky!

 
 


Rome is no stranger to ghost stories, indeed the Roman writer, Pliny the Younger, is known to have recorded a ghost story around 100 AD. So if you are planning to be in Rome around Halloween, why not take a day out to explore the spooky side of the city.
First, it may be a good idea to pick up a day travel ticket (BIG) for €6. You can purchase this wherever you see the blue 'T' sign or at metro stations.

 
You will need to validate your ticket the first time that you use it. This is done automatically if you go through the gates at the metro station. Otherwise use the machine on the bus.
 
 

Your starting point is Ponte Sant'Angelo, across the river from Castel Sant'Angelo. It is said that on the night between September 10th and 11th, the bridge is haunted by the ghost of Beatrice Cenci. The young lady in question was the victim of an abusive father and was accused, along with three other members of her family, of his murder. Her arrest caused an outcry amongst the Roman people and her execution was delayed but eventually she was beheaded on this spot where her ghost walks, carrying her severed head, on the eve of the date of her execution.

 
 
Cross the bridge, turn right and walk along until you see the church of Sacro Cuore del Suffragio, not easily missed as the Neo-Gothic architecture is striking.
 
 

 
 
 
The purpose of the church is to give aid to souls in Purgatory. A small museum (well, really just a collection of museum cases) inside the church contains relics which have been collected to support the claim that Purgatory exists. These are objects that are 'branded' by the hands of the dead including clothing, bank notes & prayer books. Spooky indeed!
The church is open from 7.30 - 11.00 & 4.30 - 7.00. Museum is free.
 

After that you surely deserve breakfast. Fortunately the perfect spot is not too far away. Continue walking along & you will see Antonini, Gran Caffe Esperia. They serve delicious coffee & have a wonderful array of pastries. My favourite are those filled with zabaione. Enjoy!
Refreshed, carry on walking until you reach Ponte Regina Margherita. Cross back over the river here. Take the road immediately in front of you, Via F. di Savoia which will bring you to Piazza del Popolo.


In the Middle Ages it was believed that this area was haunted by the ghost of Emperor Nero. A walnut tree stood on the spot where his ashes lay and ravens roosting in the tree were believed to be demons tormenting him. The tree was cut down when the first church of Santa Maria del Popolo was built. The church that we see today contains several spooky skeletons including that made famous in 'Angels & Demons' as The Demon Hole. It can be found in the Chigi Chapel.

 
After your visit to the church, take the steps that lead up from the piazza & turn right on to Viale Trinita del Monti which will take you all the way to the top of the Spanish Steps. Admire the view then take Via Gregoriana. On the left hand side as you walk down look out for a fearsome monster doorway.

 
Turn left on to Via Francesco Crispi then right on to Via Sistina. A little way along turn left on to Via dei Cappucini. At the end of this road cross over to the Museo e Cripta dei Cappuccino. No Halloween itinerary could leave out the Capuchin Crypt, where the walls of five chapels are decorated with the bones & skulls of departed Capuchin friars. The Crypt now forms part of the museum & is included in the admission price of €6.
After your visit head to Piazza Barberini. Near the metro station you will see the bus stop for the little 116 electric bus. Take the bus 11 stops to Baullari - the nearest stop to Campo di Fiori.

 
The campo is dominated by the brooding statue of Giordano Bruno, who was burnt at the stake here for heresy in 1600. The  square was used as a place of execution, including that of two renegade monks who were accused of plotting to bring about the death of Pope Urban III by means of black magic.
However ghoulish all this is, our reason for visiting Campo di Fiori is as a lunch spot. At number 22 you will find Forno Campo di Fiori. A slice of pizza bianca, fresh from the oven will make a luscious snack. If you would like something suitable to wash it down with, head down Via del Giubbonari and turn left on to Via Monte della Farina to Il Vinaietto and ask them to recommend a glass of wine.


After lunch, make your way down to the river & Ponte Sisto.

 
As you have probably guessed, there is a ghost story attached to the bridge.
On certain dark nights a ghostly horse drawn black carriage has been seen racing across the bridge towards Trastevere. The occupant of the coach is believed to be Olimpia Pamphilj, sister in law of Pope Innocent X. She exerted a strong influence  & subsequently became extremely wealthy as many people presented her with riches in order to gain favour with the Pope. According to legend, as the Pope lay dying, Olimpia sat by his bedside awaiting his death so that she could steal gold from him. It is said she offered him no comfort in his final hours & that she refused even to pay for a wooden casket for his burial, claiming she was a poor widow. After she died the phantom coach started to appear on the bridge. People believed it was Olimpia's punishment for her cold hearted treatment of her brother in law and that when the coach stops Olimpia will be in hell. No one has ever seen the coach stop. It crosses the bridge, goes down the bank & disappears into the river.
Now take Via Giulia as far as Santa Maria dell'Orazione e Morte. This church was founded to collect the bodies of the unknown dead and give them a Christian burial. The Baroque exterior is covered with images of death.

 

 
Continue walking up Via Giulia  until you come to a bus stop on the left hand side. From here you can pick up the little 116 electric bus  for two stops to Teatro Valle. Walk up Via Teatro Valle, turn left on to Via Sediari, cross Corso del Rinascimento and you will find yourself in Piazza Navona.

 
Time for another ghost story. This time the main character is Costanza, a young noble woman of the Conti family. She married and moved in to Palazzo de Cupis , which adjoins the church of Sant'Agnese in Agone, in the piazza. She was particularly known for her beautiful hands - so much so that an artist asked to make a cast of them. The model was much admired however it was foretold that whoever the hands belonged to would lose them. Indeed, the prophesy came true when, after pricking her hand with a sewing needle, Costanza developed an infection and had to have the hand amputated. Sadly, not long after, Costanza died of the same infection. Whenever the moon shines on the windows of the Palazzo, a reflection reveals a pale hand that can be seen from the piazza below.


Retrace your steps to Corso del Rinascimento & locate the bus stop for bus 87 (L.Go Colli Albani). After six stops you will find yourself in front of the Colosseum. Take Via Nicola Salvi (on the same side of the road as the metro station) and look for Oppio Café (the entrance is actually round the corner on Via Terme di Tito). For the princely sum of €10 you can enjoy a drink & help yourself to the aperitivo buffet (from 5.00pm - 10.00pm). All this with a fabulous view of the Colosseum.

 

Of all the sights in Rome, the Colosseum has to be the most haunted - Gladiators, Christians and, indeed, many exotic beasts have died here. What better way to explore this magnificent monument than with a night time tour.
Information on ' The Moon over the Colosseum Night Openings' can be found here
Should you wish to extend your Halloween even further Buzz in Rome has details of where you can party, party. party! Enjoy.

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