Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Haunted Halloween in Rome

Dolcetto o scherzetto?! This is what the Italian kids say on Halloween, and it roughly translates to treat or trick, even though trick or treating is something I’ve never seen over here. What I have seen is little kids getting dressed up in costumes and walking around. Which I guess is better than nothing, but still can’t compare to my childhood wandering my neighborhood filling my bag with pounds and pounds of candy. There was always the “good” house, where we’d get full-size candy bars, and the “bad” house, where, every year without fail, we’d get a balloon and a religious bookmark. There was the “scary” house, where the older male teens of the house set up a slaughter scene on the front walkway, and the “old people” houses with their lights out, the ones we hated the most. No matter what we got, we didn’t miss a door, and I remember at my house, when we’d run out of candy, my parents would break out our big penny bank and start putting pennies in the kids’ bags. What can I say, folks? Clearly, I miss Halloween.

But, never fear. A few years ago, sensing that my university study abroad students were feeling about the same, I decided that it was time to bring a little BOO to Rome. So I set forth, determined to come up with a Halloween itinerary of Rome. Here for you now is the result of my work. I haven’t been to all of the places, but I can guarantee that number one is genuinely spook-worthy, and number six is definitely worth a visit. Read on, if you dare…

1. Bone Crypt of the Cappuchin Monks (Cripta dei Cappuccini)
Santa Maria della Concezione Church
Via Veneto 27 (off Piazza Barberini)
Hours: 9-12; 15-18; closed Thursday

Why they're playing "Ave Maria" on their website is beyond me, because this place will give you the creeps. The bones of 4,000 Cappucin friars (for whom cappuccino is named) decorate the four chapels of the Capuchin Crypt, and the fact that it's in the church basement doesn't help. Room after room of arrangements of bones: skulls, pelvic bones, bone chandeliers, you name it. There's even a phrase saying something creepy like, "We were once like you were, soon you'll be like us..." Yikes.

2. Museum of the Souls of Purgatory (Museo Anime del Purgatorio)
S. Cuore del Suffragio Church, Lungotevere Prati 12

Rome has just one truly Gothic church, but this one is inspired by the Gothic style, and that makes it stand out. It was built in 1890, or 1927, depending on who you ask. I've never visited this museum, but apparently it showcases various objects that demostrate proof of souls who went to Purgatory, trying to communicate with us here on Earth. All are hung on the left wall of the display room. Enter the church and walk down the right aisle; just before the end, enter a door to your right and ask to see “il museo.”

3. Rome Crime Museum (Museo Criminologico di Roma)
Via del Gonfalone 29
T, W, F, Sa: 9:30-1; T, TH: 2:30-6:30, 2 EUR

The museum is divided into three sections, with computers creating a virtual Crime Museum alongside the real one. Section One, called “Punishment and Crimes,” is apparently the goriest and most gruesome. It seems like it could be one of those touristy torture museums, except for the fact that their website is run by the Italian Justice Ministry. Can't get more authentic than that--they know how criminals used to be handled!

4. The Devil’s Footprint (Il Piede del Diavolo)
Santa Maria all’Ara Coeli
Piazza Campidoglio

This church is famous for the miracles performed by the Santo Bambino, but the little-known dark side legend is that there is an imprint from the diavolo himself. Keep your eyes open looking at the floor just after you enter, on the left.

5. Exorcism and Witch HuntingSanta Maria del Popolo Church
Piazza del Popolo

Legend says that this church was built on haunted ground in ancient Rome, where witches used to practice rituals and call spirits. Inside the church, above the main altar, you can see reliefs that show the story of how the ‘popolo’ of Rome (hence the name of the church) asked for action against the witches, and the process of their execution.

6.Catacombs: the ancient tombs of Rome
The Catacombs of St. Sebastian
(Catacombe di S. Sebastiano)
Via Appia Antica 136; 8:30 - 12 - 14:30 - 17:00

This is where it is believed that the remains of Saints Peter and Paul were temporarily housed. This underground cemetery has examples of both Christian and Pagan graves. Visits are with guided tours only (times above). The tour is available in English, takes about a half hour, and costs €5.



Anonymous said...

I wish I had known about the footprint when I was there last year! I will look for it next time I am in Rome. I haven't visited any of the other places but I am really interested in seeing the Capucchin Crypt. Great post!

anton said...

Yeah, you did a great job! I'd take the tour. I lived in Rome a year and haven't been to most of those places. Brava!

African Kelli said...

Good Lord. Museums of the Souls of Purgatory? I'm no longer telling people they are going to Hell. I'm saying they are going ot Italy!

Anonymous said...

This is a kick ass post! I'd love to do Halloween Roman style one year. I guess I'll just have to come back. Hmmm... that is too bad. I'll bring full size Kit Kats, those are my fave.

mad said...

When I was 10y/o my family went to Rome and we visited the Catacombs. I thought tit was the most spooky place on earth. Having visited many times as an adult it has never had the same effect.
Love the architecture of the gothic churh, must visit that next time I'm over there. That sounds spooky.

reslifedan said...

Love your blog! My last trip to Roma (I've been twice), I took several college students to the Cappuchin Bone Crypt! Yes, I too have led American students thorugh Europe. My next trip is in 2008(sans students)and I hope to stay in one of your flats!

blueVicar said...

It's a side of Rome that I hadn't seen...looking forward to a return visit. At least it's not too far from Southern France.

Over the last week I've been reading Halloween related posts by expatriate bloggers...and putting the links to them on my blog.

Meilleurs vœux!