Ghosts, as troubled souls who refuse to “cross” don’t like cemeteries. They reject their transition to the other world, and stick to us. There are evil, hooligans, and dominant ghosts. But most of them are shy and elusive. And most of them, merge with the living ones, manifesting themselves only with very subtle signs.
In the movies they choose lugubrious locations to stay. In real life they are everywhere. Cars, trains, boats or at modern office. Mansions, hotels or forests. Any place is perfect for a tormented soul. And Rome was a tragic place , where terrible stories happened.
A ghost is a soul that doesn’t want to go, and is associated with a traumatic experience. Rome is beautiful and magnificent. Eternal, although its existence was based on carpeting streets with streams of blood. Nowhere on earth, there are so many cruel stories like in Rome. Having read dozens of stories, I waited that tourists were in bed, and started to wander when streets became dark and furtive. I walked just listening my own steps; and my breathing.
The atmosphere gets oppressively disturbing at night. Rome is crowded with ghosts, and are perceived in each corner. Some locals say walking near the Colosseum, the epicenter of death and the horror of the Roman Empire, makes one feeling disturbing perceptions. In certain alleys of Rome, it’s common to feel someone walking behind us. We can hear and perceive someone breathing at the back of our necks. When we turn back, there’s not anybody.
There are hundreds of ghost stories. The night is cold. Although Rome is infested with ghosts, I want to tell you my five particularly evocative, and perhaps spooky ones.
1-Campo dei Fiori
It looks a delicious square where the day is filled with colorful stalls of vegetables, fruits and flowers. Once empty, at dusk, the ghostly statue of Giordano Bruno Neapolitan monk at the top, and looking to every corner makes us think there’s something evil round. An astronomer, mathematician, poet, monk which questioned many of the existing dogmas. Defended the existence of aliens, the earth was not flat, and was always untamed in the defense of his ideas.
He traveled and preached his theories in places like Genoa, Savona, Turin, Venice, Rome. He’s put in jail and burned to death. When tourists disappear, and we only listen the sound of the fountaing; Witnesses say to have heard Bruno’s distant cries of dispair, invading the dark alleys. Some feel someone behind, and some see a black and gloomy figure with a cap floating in the area.
Near the Farnese Palace, there is a peacefull ghost who doesn’t want to leave the area. Rodrigo Borgia, better known as Alexander VI visits one of the residences, of his landlady and lover Vernozza dei Cattenai, on Via del Pellegrino. And especially in Locanda della Vacca Palace, where he feels very comfortable, and still seeks his dear Vernozza. Love is immortal and eternal.
2-Donna Olimpia, or Pimpaccia
And now we go to the mysterious and literary Ponte Sisto, communicating the old town with the wonderful Trastevere quartier. It is a bridge surrounded by a dimmed light and which was the place of a mighty event. Donna Olimpia or Pimpaccia was a courtesan, who was the perfect example of how someone should climb in society. Perverse and ambitious, she makes her fortune marrying several wealthy gentlemen, until she becomes the lover of Innocent X, belonging to the wealthy Pamphili disnasty. Hated by the people, she foresees the death of the pope. So she gets all the treasures she can, and heads to Ponte Sisto.
She is forced later to have a humble existence, and died of the plague. Many nights Pimpaccia appears on the bridge riding a chariot drawn by hellish animals, causing fear among the locals. Tradition says that if you get caught, she takes you to her infernal world.
In the Villa Borghese, the Muro Torto, was part of the wall of ancient Rome, and has always been associated with an outstanding paranormal activity. Partly because it was where the beggars, criminals, prostitutes, suicides and murderers were buried. The souls wander aimlessly, and also a very famous lady. Messalina, wife of the Emperor Claudius. The Roman Empire, gave dozens of ghosts, who wander along its ruins. Messalina, was the story of a sex bomb and slutish empress, always thirsty for sex.
Gladiators, soldiers and noblemen shared her bed. Her favorite lover Silio, conspired against her husband. The plot was discovered, and the emperor sent his soldiers to murder her at the vicinity of the Via Medici, and Muro Torto, where she had fled to escape from her persecutors. Also near the Colosseum and Via Labicana a ghostly and anguished lady have been seen
Let’s go to one of the most popular stories of Rome, and also relating to a ghost. The gripping story of Beatrice Cenci, a beautiful lady of the Roman high society of the late fifeenth century. His father, the banker Francesco Cenci was so miserable and brutal, that raped and beated her repeatedly, like the rest of the family. Despite their complaints, the authorities did not dare to judge a nobleman. With the help of his butler and blacksmith, they plan his death in one of his castles. Despite trying to pass it off as an accident, a servant accused them.
Despite the social pressure to free Beatrice and her brothers, they were executed in the infamous Castello Sant Angello, one of the cruelest prisons of the time. It is buried in the Church of San Pietro di Montorio, in a nameless grave. Later, Napoleon’s soldiers looted the church and the remains of Beatrice were spread around the city. Now the lost lady, and unjustly executed, appears with her head in her hands, the day of the execution. If you walk around at night, near the gloomy castle, one day, every year, you better look around. Beatrice may be lurking.
5- The Tofana
Although there are hundreds of stories of collective poisonings, the Tofana Giuglia the alchemist made Lucrezia Borgia, to look as something anecdotal. She was a beautiful Sicilian lady who opened a perfum shop in the vicinity of the spooky Via Giuglia, to offer beauty treatments to the beautiful Roman noblewomen of the seventeenth century. She invented a beauty elixir called Acqua Tofana, but in high doses had the virtue of causing death without a trace. Soon the rich ladies sought ways to get rid of their inconvenient husbands.
After more than 600 poisonings, she is discovered and executed as one of the most famous mass killers of the time. The good things comes now. A gloomy attic in an anonymous place, and where thought to be her home, remains uninhabited for years. The neighbours seem to be accustomed to the strange noises that happens in the place, as if the Tofana continued manipulating her deathly stuff.
Where to sleep
Where there is more “activity” than in the Scooby Doo movies is at the Castello della Castelluiccia, far from the center. A boutique hotel that was an ancient Roman villa, and next to the Tomb of Nero. There is no day that some of its customers have reported seeing Nero walking through the hotel gardens.
On the Via del Corso, Via Conditti corner, the Grand Plaza is one of that classic and decadent hotel, which is linked to the living history of the city. National monument, its history is rich and intense. I am sure Visconti is still sitting on the red upholstered sofas of the imposive lobby. It was his favorite hotel.
￼Great stories have occurred in this iconic place used by dozens of celebrities. A little rickety, still has an old flavor. Built as Palazzo Lozzono was made by the famous architect Antonio Sarti. Kings, popes, actress, wealthy aristrocats met here, and was occupied by the Nazis, and later became the location of many movies. The Grand Plaza was the home to the famous musician Mascagni, that surely still spies behind a corner. And of course there are dozens of unidentified noises at night.
Where to eat
￼If you have been intimidated or scared by the Grand Plaza (I admit that I didn’t turn the lights off at nights to sleep) get out and find something more humble to eat. I recommend something very local at the area. For a moment, no ghosts are invited to our table. No signs of paranormal activity at this restaurant. La Ristorante degli Amiche, is not particularly luxurious, but quaint with some interesting frescoes, and friendly waiters. Something quite unusual in Roma.
Large menu of local specialties. For just over 25 euros (including drink and complimentary limoncello), I could enjoy a full buffet of antipasti, and a plate of a very fresh and handmade pasta. Plentiful and tempting. I opted for the rigattone with mussels and seafood. It was garnished with an extremely fresh spool of parsley, tomato and a spectacular ecological oil.
Ristorante degli Amici
Via della Crocce 33B