unusual things to do in Rome
13 June 2018   •   Redazione

Unusual things to do in Rome: mystery and alchemy in the Capital

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«Today we are going to share with you the most unusual things to do in Rome by showing you another side of Rome, the esoteric Rome: from the Chair of the Devil to the legend of Piazza Navona, you will be fascinated by the mysterious and disturbing places that are hidden in our capital»

If you’re wondering about what unusual things to do in Rome, you have to learn about another Rome, the esoteric Rome. Hidden among the monuments and the main streets of the capital, this Rome, certainly more disturbing, but no less fascinating, that is the  Rome is a city that was born from the legends, from that of Romulus and Remus, to what we see as Romans as direct descendants of the Trojans. Moreover, the Roman people have always been attached to superstition and magic, so much so that in ancient Rome no decision could be made without first having consulted the flights of birds or the entrails of sacrificed animals. Esoteric Rome is a subject of great intrigue, and these mysterious places that I will present you will reveal another face of the capital, not very known, but really fascinating.

The chair of the Devil

The first amongst the unusual things to do in Rome you will find it in the African neighborhood, near Viale Libia, where a very strange ruin or the so-called Chair of the devil stands. It’s actually an ancient burial structure, and it’s assumed that it’s the rest of the tomb of a freedman of the emperor Hadrian. But the legends around the chair are many: it is said, in fact, that in the 19th century, a pastor named Giovanni approached the chair thus acquiring healing qualities; he then healed a girl with dysentery, preparing a medicine with the powder scraped from the ruin. Another detail is that the chair is right behind St. Peter’s, as if to symbolize the antichrist. Around it, archaeologists have recently discovered an ancient prehistoric deposit more than 200,000 years old years. Strange enough, do not you think?

Nerone’s cursed tomb

Here comes another of the most unusual things to do in Rome. On the Colle degli Ortuli, where the church of Santa Maria del Popolo stands today, we find the real tomb of Emperor Nero. When the mad emperor was buried, a walnut tree was planted on the earth that covered the grave. It is said that some demons chose that place as their usual haunt, and later, even the famous witches of Rome decided to hold their meetings there. But Pope Pasquale II, in 1099, following a dream in which the Madonna appeared to him, decided to disperse the ashes of the late emperor in the Tiber, demolish the fatal walnut and build a church on the site that housed the tomb. The main altar is still found right in the spot where the diabolical nut was.

Quartiere Coppedè

Visiting this evocative neighborhood could not be missing from the list of the most unusual things to do in Rome. Between Via Tagliamento and Piazza Buenos Aires, stands the Coppedè district, which takes its name from its architect Gino Coppedè. It is one of the most esoteric places in Rome and it is such a special place that it seems to transport us almost into a small world unto itself. Built from 1915 to 1927, it presents a Baroque style blended with a medieval style. The interesting thing is that perhaps the architect was a mason, and that he therefore filled these buildings with esoteric symbols. Under the arch that symbolizes the district, in fact, you will find a chandelier, which indicates the beginning of an initiatory journey. The Masons, in fact, are also called children of light, understood as a light of knowledge. On the arch a cup that recalls that of the Holy Grail is also represented, while the pairs of columns refer to the Temple of Solomon and the many towers to the Tower of Babel. Moreover, on one of the buildings of the district, the Hospes Salve Palace, there is a Latin epigraph the translation of which is “Enter this house, whoever you are; You will be a friend. I protect the guest”.

To complete the small district, we must mention the famous Fountain of the Frogs in Piazza Mincio (where the Beatles dived after holding a concert at the Piper club), and the extraordinary Villino delle Fate. The latter consists of three cottages, which pay homage to three places of culture, namely Florence, Rome and Venice through symbols and characters that recall the three cities. Every corner of Coppedè district is full of apotropaic figures, mullioned windows and gothic masks.

Villa Colombara’s alchemical door

Located in the heart of Piazza Vittorio, and definitely one of the most famous symbols of esoteric Rome, visiting the Alchemy Gate qualifies without doubt for a prize as one of the most unusual things to do in Rome. In the 17th century, in the area where today is the square, stood Villa Colombara, of the Marquis Massimiliano Colombara, a member of the Rosa Croce, a famous esoteric order. A young alchemist, Giuseppe Borri, financed by the Marquis, conducted many experiments in the laboratory of the villa to find a mythical philosopher’s stone, capable of converting any element into gold. In the 19th century the villa was destroyed, but the only thing left intact is the door of the laboratory, where Massimiliano had all of Borri’s formulas engraved. The so-called alchemical door consists of a small portal, now walled up, flanked by two statues.

On the white frame there are a number of alchemical symbols and among the most significant ones we find:

  • double triangle in the shape of a six-point star of King Solomon, with a superimposed circle surmounted by a cross, engraved on the large disk placed above the door;
  • The Hebrew inscription “Divine Spirit” in the upper part of the jamb, with a mythological reference to Giasone below, who sought the Golden Fleece, which the alchemists identified with the philosopher’s stone;
  • The symbols of the planets, accompanied by mottos on the uprights of the jamb;

The incision on the step of the door “si sedes non is” that if read from right to left has the meaning of if you do not proceed, while read on the contrary if you sit do not proceed: the magic door, in fact, also represented an ideal threshold that the alchemists went beyond to access a higher level of knowledge and purity of the soul.

The strange legend of Piazza Navona

Even Piazza Navona helps to make Rome esoteric: in fact there is a strange rumor that lovers are advised not to turn counterclockwise around the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi. If the couple is reckless, it is said that he will leave within six days, due to an anathema of a witch who threw the lovers’ curse right here, in an undefined time. In short, if you want to keep your love tight, always turn clockwise around the funeral fountain!

If the topic of esoteric Rome fascinates you, you will surely find everything that suits you at Harmonia Mundi, in Via de ‘Santi Quattro 26/A,! Here you can go in search of esoteric books, special objectsincense of all kinds and more. In fact, in this space there are many events and courses about astrology, tarots and so on. To learn more click here!

We have given you a list of the most unusual things to do in Rome, so pick a few and embark on a unique and esoteric visit of the capital!

Francesca Celani

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