Ghosts in Rome and where to find them

The beauty of Rome is such that the noble women, gentlemen, popes and emperors who have lived there over time, do not hesitate to leave the streets of the Eternal City even after their death! Yes, you have understood correctly, today we are talking about the ghosts of Rome. And then sit down, take a breath and leave with me for a new adventure by night.

Beatrice Cenci in a famous artworks by Guido Reni (Source: barberinicorsini.org)

Let’s look immediately at Castel Sant’Angelo, the ancient mausoleum of Emperor Hadrian, transformed by the popes into a prison and fortress. Here, as the day goes by, you may see the scarlet cloth of Mastro Titta’s cloak, better known as “er boja de Roma”, who, as executioner of His Holiness, killed between 1796 and 1864 514 people. Eye not to accept tobacco from strangers in those parts! A popular legend says that he used to offer tobacco to his convicted before leading them to the gallows.
And if you escaped Mastro Titta, move on to the Ponte dell’Angelo, one of the most beautiful in Rome, the scene, on the night of September 10-11, of the apparition of Beatrice, the daughter of the manesco Count Francesco Cenci. The girl, who was condemned to beheading for the murder of her father, would wander around that night dressed in turquoise, with a silver cloak and her head cut in her hands.

The window of Palazzo de Cupis (Source: Luisa Mondello da il Mattino)

Then take a leap into Via di Santa Maria dell’Anima, just behind the famous Piazza Navona, where, on full moon nights, the dead hand of the beautiful Costanza de Cupis will peep out of one of the windows of his palace. The Romans tell us that the young woman was particularly known for the beauty and the whiteness of her hands, so much so that the artist “Bastiano alli Serpenti”, made a cast of it the object of a real daily procession. But a friar of St. Peter in Vincoli, looking at that work, praised its beauty saying that the owner risked someone amputation her hands for envy. Constant, frightened, she closed herself in the house and, while she was sewing, she injured her finger with a needle. The woman’s hands became so violently infected that their amputation was necessary. The infection was however already circulating and the woman died shortly after of septicaemia.

And always in Piazza Navona, Olympia would appear, a greedy woman, thirsty for power, forced to take her vows, but soon refused, accusing the spiritual director of the monastery to which it was intended to seduce. He married a rich bourgeois, soon remaining a widow and married an older man, the brother of the future Pope Innocent X Doria Pamphili. The woman exerted a huge influence on her brother-in-law and the malicious gossips of the time called her Pimpaccia or Papessa, saying that she was even the lover of the pope himself who trusted only his advice. She received great gifts from the Romans in exchange for a good word in the Pope’s ear and, once she learned that with the death of Innocent she could lose everything, she filled two crates with gold coins, put them on a carriage and ran away. His ghost would appear on January 7, the anniversary of the death of the Pope, being seen on a burning carriage, pulled by hellish horses with red eyes, running from Piazza Navona to the Sixtus Bridge.

The obelisk in St Peter’s Square (Source: ristoart.it)

And the ghosts of Rome would not only belong to the modern age! Roman stories report that even Messalina, the unbelieving wife of Emperor Claudius, wandered between the Colosseum and the Roman Forum in search of some new adventure. And what about Julius Caesar? According to legend, its ashes were kept in a bronze sphere of the obelisk of St. Peter’s Square, once located in the ancient circus of Nero, a stone’s throw from there. And so, when Sixtus V wanted to move it, he ordered the architect Fontana to puncture the sphere to see what it contained. Caesar’s ashes came down like sand and his ghost began to take a stroll around there.

Still alive? So what about taking a trip with me at night? Book your walk!

 

Posted by Sara Pandozzi

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