While you’re studying in Rome, you absolutely have to visit all the most famous and well-known classic tourist sights. You can’t leave the city without having seen the Vatican, the Colosseum, or the Spanish Steps, can you? However, if you are looking for more out-of-the-box ideas and activities, consider adding these four unusual spots to your itinerary while you’re in Rome!
1. Aventine Hill Keyhole
Where else in the world can you see three countries through a single keyhole? Located atop Aventine Hill, just down the street from the lovely Orange Tree Garden is the Aventine Keyhole. A huge building in the Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta boasts a large green door. Line up (yes, there’s usually a bit of a line) to peer through which the keyhole in that door, which offers a priceless view of the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica (Vatican City), surrounded by a view of Rome (Italy), and finally framed by the perfectly groomed gardens of the Knights of Malta (technically territory of Malta, not Italy).
Not only is the keyhole a lovely and unique sight, but it is also located in the immediate vicinity of many other interesting places to visit, like the Orange Tree Garden and the Basilica of Santa Sabina, which is the oldest Roman basilica in Rome, built in the early 400s.
2. Dome Illusion of Sant’Ignazio
The church of Sant’Ignazio is located in the historical center of Rome between the Pantheon and via del Corso. The church is noted for having several famous works of art, such as the expansive ceiling painting which was completed by Andrea Pozzo. The famous “dome” is, in fact, merely an illusion, as the funding for the completion of a legitimate dome was never manageable. During the time of completion, illusions were a popular way to overcome the barrier of funding restraints, and to this day the illusion of the dome in Sant’Ignazio is a respected and renowned work of art.
Upon entrance to the church, you can see the dome in all its glory, apparently darkened by the limited light that is allowed through the small windows of the church. The illusion is only revealed once you approach the altar. There are several locations marked off on the floor of the church; these locations represent the perfect spot where you should stand for the full effect of both the illusion of the dome and the grand ceiling fresco that expands across much of the ceiling in the center of the church.
3. Quartiere Coppedè
While the name suggests a much larger area, Quartiere Coppedè is a collective of 18 palaces and 27 villas all located around the nucleus of Piazza Mincio between via Tagliamento and Piazza Buenos Aires. This quiet little residential neighborhood in northeast Rome could be considered the smallest neighborhood in Rome, and perhaps the most bizarrely designed as well.
The architect behind the masterfully crafted buildings is Sir Gino Coppedè, who completed the unique works in 1927. The neighborhood expresses several styles of art from Medieval to Baroque to Art Nouveau; the facades of the buildings are breathtaking and far from the classic design of Roman architecture.
4. Santa Maria della Concezione Crypt
This church, commissioned by Pope Urban VIII, is located on via Veneto in central Rome and was built between 1626-1631. Like most churches in Rome, it comprises a nave and many side chapels on the main floor; however, the main attraction of this church in particular is what lies beneath it. The crypt is located beneath the church and was ordered by Cardinal Antonio Barberini to be embellished with the remains of thousands of friars, which were exhumed and transferred to the church in 1631.
The crypt now contains the bones of more than 4,000 friars, which are arranged in elaborate ornamental designs along the walls of the underground crypt. Easily accessible, located just near Piazza Barberini, the crypt of Santa Maria della Concezione is a must-see for those looking to explore some more unusual aspects of the Eternal City.