“Life is less about finding and more about seeking.” (Seth Adam Smith)
A weekend city break in the ancient city of Rome can be exhausting. If you are looking for some respite away from the bustle of the historic landmarks which stud this iconic city, head to the peaceful Aventine hill. Many people are drawn to this part of the city to find the mysterious Aventine keyhole which is found on a door in an unassuming piazza on the hillside above the River Tiber.
The act of seeking out the tiny keyhole on the most southerly of Rome’s seven hills is as rewarding as finding it, so don’t miss out on this adventure. To begin your treasure trail, find the Clivo dei Publicii to the left of the Circus Maximus (the ancient chariot racing stadium) as you face the River Tiber and follow the road which gradually leads into the Via di Santa Sabina. Keep climbing and you will eventually find yourself in the Piazza dei Calvieri di Malta which is the location of the mysterious keyhole. The nearest Metro stations to the bottom of the hill are Circo Massimo or Piramide on line B.
As you climb above the city, make sure you take time to enjoy the tranquillity of this residential area which is home to many monasteries and churches. It really is a peaceful place which offers a contrast to the rest of Rome. Venture into small parks on the right-hand side of the road as you ascend the hill and you will be rewarded with some amazing views across the River Tiber towards the Trastevere district and the Vatican City. From here, you can take some amazing panoramic photographs of Rome. One of our favourite vantage points was the view from the Giardini dei Aranci (the Orange Garden Rome or Savello Park) in the grounds of the Basilica di Santa Sabina all’Aventino.
The Aventine hill keyhole itself is found in the Piazza dei Calvieri di Malta (Piazza of the Knights of Malta). To the right of the piazza is an ordinary green painted door which is rather worn with a decorative brass keyhole. The door in question actually leads to the Villa del Priorato di Malta (the Priory of the Knights of Malta) and the land beyond is a sovereign entity belonging to Malta under international law. It’s extraordinary to witness visitors arrive in this rather bare piazza, stand in line and crouch down and peep through a simple keyhole. Like us, you may be lucky and visit on a day when it’s not too busy.
What Will you See through the Knights of Malta Keyhole?
Where is the Secret Keyhole Rome?
When it’s your turn to look through the keyhole, you will be taken aback by the perfectly miniature view of St Peter’s Basilica exquisitely framed by green leafy hedges which line a path in the Priory. What is also unique is that from this unassuming view point, you can gaze across 3 entirely different countries: Malta, Italy and the Vatican City. Where else in the world can you claim that?
Although many people try to capture this view on camera, it is tricky and perhaps best to enjoy the moment in person and commit this alluring view to memory. However, if you want the perfect photo shot, you will need to switch off auto focus and use the manual settings on your camera. First, zoom in on the dome of St Peters. Once you’ve done that, focus on St Peter’s Basilica, then keep the settings as they are and zoom out until you see the keyhole on the edge of your view finder. Now’s the time to take your shot!
The view through this worn keyhole is definitely intriguing because it is still unknown whether the perfect alignment of the keyhole and St Peter’s Basilica dome was by deliberate design or a happy accident on the part of Piranesi who designed the property in 1765. However, when you witness the perfectly aligned foliage tunnel which leads the eye directly to the Vatican City, it’s hard to imagine that it was purely coincidental.
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Ristoranti Trastevere Near the Aventine Keyhole
If you are hungry after visiting the hidden keyhole, it is worth descending the hill and heading over the river to the Trastevere district of Rome. In Trastevere Roma you will find many authentic Italian restaurants in narrow streets which open up onto small piazzas. Some of our favourite Trastevere restaurants included Roma Sparita in the Piazza di Santa Cecilia, La Fraschetta on the Via di San Francesco a Ripa and the L’Inslata Ricca on the Via Giulio Cesare Santini. We highly recommend that you order some of the Rome’s specialities including the Cacio di Pepe pasta which is a simple but delicious combination of pecorino Romano cheese, pepper and starchy pasta water. If you’re lucky, this satisfying pasta dish may come served in a rustic, edible parmesan basket. Another suggestion is to eat artichokes if they are in season. Carciofi Alla Giudea or deep-fried artichokes in the Jewish manner are very tasty as are the Carciofi Alla Romana which are artichokes slowly stewed with wild mint, parsley and garlic.