A Stunning View with a Layer of Intrigue
At the end of the stunning Aventine Hill, just south of the Circo Massimo, sits the Villa del Priorato di Malta. It’s a stunning former monastery sat on top of the Tiber River with beautifully manicured gardens on the grounds and an absolutely stunning view of the Roman skyline. It would be the perfect spot for a secluded and romantic evening stroll. There’s just one problem. Unless you are an extremely high-ranking government or catholic church official you’ve got no chance of getting in. The entrance gate is locked. There are no tours available and, though you could try ringing the doorbell, no one will come to let you have a look at whatever unknown treasures might lay inside. What you do get access to, however, is a keyhole. And trust me, you are going to want to see this keyhole.
The Order of Malta: An Elusive History
The Villa is owned and operated by the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. The Order is an incredibly peculiar organization. It’s a Catholic religious order dedicated to charitable service around the globe. It has a history dating back to the 1100’s, and despite having no territory to claim for themselves, the Order of Malta is treated like a nation state, with an Embassy and a passport that can grant you access to 110 countries. It is estimated that there are only 500 Order of Malta passports in circulation so good luck trying to get your hands on one.
An Esoteric Villa, An Unparalleled View
The Villa del Priorato, itself only adds to the mystery. As mentioned earlier, unless you are part of the diplomatic elite, you’re not getting in. What makes the place even more bemusing is that despite the fact that neither you nor I will likely ever get invited inside, we can still get a small glimpse of the beauty that lies within the grounds. A small circular keyhole located in the perpetually locked door at the Villa’s entrance gate provides perhaps the best view Rome has to offer. If you walk up to the door and look through the hole, you are greeted with a stunning scene. An avenue with a line of cypress trees provide the perfect frame for a head on look of the dome of the Basilica San Pietro. It’s a perfect little portrait that’s made even better by the fact that you have to take it in in the moment. The size of the keyhole, mixed with the color contrast of the dark cypress trees and the bright Roman skyline in the background means it’s an incredibly hard vista to capture on camera, so to really get the full experience, you’re going to have to go and see it for yourself.
How To Get There
The keyhole is a short hike from the Circo Massimo metro station. And when I say hike, I mean hike. When there, be sure not miss the other highlights of the Aventine Hill, mainly the Basilica Santa Sabina and the Orange Garden. The keyhole is there to see 24/7 but the best time to visit is at dusk. But beware there can often be a bit of a line. Be sure to take in the view with respect to those waiting, and for the love of god, don’t be the person who spends ten minutes holding up the line, trying to take the perfect photo of the keyhole. Unless you’re a professional with high end equipment, it’s not going come out very nicely. After taking in the most unique view in Rome, I’d suggest you stroll down to Testaccio for dinner. Nearby Pizzeria Remo is, in my opinion, one of the best in the city.
Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta, 3