The Colosseum in Rome, Italy

3 Unique Places To Explore In Rome In 2022

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The Italian city of Rome is the result of some 3,000 years of ad hoc urban development. Its cityscape is unique, where ancient icons such as the Colosseum, Pantheon and Roman Forum draw the eye. Rome is also home to St. Peter’s Basilica and the iconic Vatican City, as well as pretty piazzas and fancy fountains decorating the city’s streets. The city's government is constantly improving infrastructure at its celebrated sites for easier access by visitors. However, for those readers who have been there and done that, here are three unique locations to take in on your next visit to Rome.

1. The Aventine Keyhole, Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta 3, Rome

At the end of a cul-de-sac in Rome, a nondescript green door gives a different view of the iconic city. When looking through the keyhole, visitors can see an incredibly well-framed view of the dome of St. Peter’s.

The Aventine Keyhole, Rome, Italy
Image by AngMoKio/Wikimedia Commons

The doorway itself leads to the Priory of the legendary crusader Knights of Malta and while the property has been in their hands for centuries, the site has had many and varied occupants. It was originally a fortified palace for Alberico II, Rome’s ruler from 932 – 954. It then became a Benedictine monastery before passing on to the Knights Templar in the 1100s. The site eventually fell to the Knights of Malta in the 1400s.

Image by Lalupa/Wikimedia Commons

These days the building houses a small church, known as Santa Maria del Priorato and features fascinating architectural Motifs of ships and the sea. However, the church also incorporates many esoteric and Masonic symbols. However, the most fascinating part of this structure is the keyhole view that lines up perfectly with the garden, centered on the Vatican on the horizon. No one knows for sure whether this peepshow was planned or was just a lucky coincidence.

2. The Mouth of Truth, Piazza della Bocca della Verità 18, Rome

The Bocca della Verità, or “Mouth of Truth,” is an ancient “lie detector” - a carving which is said to bite off the hands of liars. No one is sure exactly when or why it was created, but it is said to date back to around the 1st century CE. The “Mouth of Truth” consists of a tall stone disc, carved into a face with hollow eyes and a gaping mouth. Some believe its original purpose was something as simple as a ceremonial well cover, or part of a fountain decoration, or simply an ancient equivalent of a manhole cover.

Bocca della Verita or Mouth of Truth, Rome, Italy

The face is said to represent a pagan god, but scholars can only guess, who debate whether it is the sea god Oceanus or the forest god Faunas, or a local river god. However, legends say that should you stick your hand in the mouth and tell a lie, the offending hand will promptly be bitten off.

The “Mouth of Truth” now stands outside the doors of the Basilica di Santa Maria in Cosmedin. It has been used as a whimsical lie detector in a number of movies and video games. The most famous starring role was in the 1953 romance, “Roman Holiday.” In the scene, included below, Joe (Gregory Peck) tricks a frightened Princess Ann (Audrey Hepburn) into believing his hand was eaten off by the "The Mouth of Truth."

3. Pyramid of Cestius, Via Raffaele Persichetti, Rome

The Pyramid of Cestius is the only “Egyptian” pyramid in Europe and is the legendary tomb of Remus. Following the conquest of Egypt in 30 BC, Egyptomania gripped Rome, leading to massive artifacts cropping up in the city. Two pyramids were known to have been built, but only one remains.

Pyramid of Cestius, Rome, Italy
Image by Joris van Rooden/Wikimedia Commons

It is believed that the Pyramid of Cestius was built around 18 and 12 BC and was built as a tomb for a wealth Roman. Measuring around 120 feet in height, the pyramid stands at the edge of a busy traffic intersection. Originally, it stood outside of the centre of the city and was surrounded by stately columns and two bronze figures, which now can be seen in the Musei Capitolini.

The second pyramid was appropriately known as the Pyramid of Romulus, which stood near the Castel Sant’Angelo. However, that one didn’t survive the later building in the city and its marble was used in the stairs of St. Peter’s Basilica. For a good view of the pyramid away from the traffic, head inside the Aurelian walls to the Protestant Cemetery.

Experience a different side of Rome on your next visit, taking in these and many other unique sites.

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Latest update: April 22, 2021