The Aventine secret keyhole

on 7. September 2021   /   1   /  

Aventine: The secret keyhole. Rome is a big and multifaceted city with a lot to visit. But today it’s not about the big and famous sights like the Colosseum, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Fontana di Trevi & co. Here I would like to introduce you to a very special insider tip for Rome that most visitors to the Eternal City will probably miss. Il buco di Roma – a small keyhole on the Aventine. What’s up with the keyhole on the Aventine and the story behind it? I’ll tell you all about it in the following text.


Aventine: The secret keyhole

The Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta – an inconspicuous place with a secret

Rome has many well-known squares: Piazza di Spagna, Navona Square, Piazza del Popolo, Piazza Venezia, Piazza San Pietro will be familiar to most of you. All these places have one thing in common: When in Rome on sightseeing tour, you inevitably come past them. Quite different, however, is the Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta (Square of the Knights of Malta) on the Aventine. The Aventine is one of the seven hills on which Rome was built. Ever heard? Probably not. Nevertheless, you should take a closer look at this piazza. Even if it does not attract the masses for the sake of an antique building, a significant church or a monumental fountain. Because at first glance, the perhaps rather inconspicuous place hides a little secret.


This secret lies amidst the beautifully decorated neoclassical wall with the large green gate that dominates the square. But the highlight here is not the building behind this wall. To be precise, you will find it in the middle of the mighty portal. It is the keyhole itself that attracts some visitors to Rome, as it offers one of the most beautiful views of the city of Rome.

Usually there are always a few tourists in the piazza. You really can not miss the keyhole on the Aventine. But do not worry, if there is a waiting line, this goes really fast and is far from comparable to the Vatican Museums.

Aventine: The secret keyhole – A view of Rome without equal

I do not know about you, but for me personally, the thought of a furtive look through the keyhole immediately wakes childhood memories. Until a while ago, I was thinking of Christmas Eve much more than Rome, the holy city. The visit to the Aventine, has shown me a perspective that I have not known so far – and in the truest sense of the word!

If you look through the so-called “Buco di Roma”, as the keyhole on the Aventine in Rome is called (which means in German as “the hole of Rome”), then you look almost like a telescope directly on the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica.

A few of you might wonder now what is so special about it. After all, it is the only viewing platform in Rome from which you can see the dome of San Pietro.


But while one looks through the said Buco di Roma, the huge dome, which by the way, is on the other side of the Tiber, seems within reach. In addition, the imposing dome is framed not only by the tiny keyhole, but also by the plants in the garden behind it. Perfectly staged. Small hole, but very big appearance.

The Order of Malta and the background of the keyhole on the Aventine

As a rule, a door or gate always belongs to a lock. Apart from the impressive view, behind the keyhole on the Aventine lies the Villa del Priorato di Malta. This is the Magistral Villa of the Sovereign Knight and Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and Malta (better known as the Sovereign Order of Malta Knights). The Order of Malta is one of the oldest Catholic lay orders in the world. Its origins date back to Jerusalem in the 11th century; the time of the Crusades.

A special feature of the Maltese is that on the one hand they are a religious order of knights, who praise the Pope for poverty, chastity and obedience. At the same time, however, they are legally treated as an independent state. This means that they have their own license plates, issue their own passports and entertain messages. One of these messages also includes the keyhole on the Aventine, because on the ground floor of the Magistral Villa of the Order is the Maltese Embassy to the Holy See.


The Aventine – more than just the keyhole

The Aventine, however, is more than just the secret keyhole and Order of Malta. So, while you’re there, do not leave it at the glimpse of the keyhole, because there’s more to discover around the Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta. Just a few meters further on is the Basilica di Santa Sabina, one of the oldest and most important Christian basilicas in Rome, which incidentally is also one of the city’s most popular wedding churches. One reason for this is probably the immediate proximity to the Giardino degli Aranci, the orange garden on the Aventine. There is also a magnificent view of the rooftops of Roma. But more than that, the green space is the perfect oasis for a picnic or a quick break.

ROME_Palatine-Orange garden

Aventin: The Secret Keyhole – Directions

Although not necessarily on the well-known tourist trails, the way to the keyhole on the Aventine is actually quite easy. The location is quite central and can be wonderfully connected with the sightseeing of other attractions.

For example, the Colosseum, which is just 1.5 km away, so just under 20 minutes on foot. The best part? The path will take you not only to the keyhole on the Aventine, but also past other attractions such as the Circus Maximus. Or the urban rose garden of Rome – one of the most beautiful parks in the city – and the already mentioned Basilica Santa Sabina and of course the orange garden.

Alternatively, you can also take the metro B and get off at the station Circo Massimo. From there, a short walk to Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta will take you about 15 minutes.


By the way: Whether the secret keyhole on the Aventine was intentionally aligned with the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, or if it is a coincidence, is not officially clarified. But whether planned or not, the view is definitely fantastic. And that’s what matters, right? Put it on the list for your next visit to Rome.

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