Let’s be honest, most of Rome’s best-known tourist attractions are expensive and crowded. Thankfully, that’s not the case with one very special keyhole on Aventine Hill. Not only is this attraction free, but it also offers travelers killer views of the most famous dome in Christendom: St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. Every year, thousands of savvy tourists flock to this semi-hidden Roman attraction for a perfectly framed view of the dome. Thankfully, though, your average tourist doesn’t know about the Aventine Keyhole and big tour buses ignore it.
Malta, Masons and Marvelous Gardens: History of The Aventine Keyhole
Due to its location on Aventine Hill, this keyhole is often called the Aventine Keyhole (duh). However, the more official name is the Keyhole of the Knights of Malta. That’s right, one of the most famous Christian chivalric orders has owned this building for centuries.
Most historians believe a palace-like structure was built where the keyhole is now located in the 930s for a really rich guy named Alberico II. The Knights of Malta most likely took over ownership of this property in the 1400s. Famed architect Giovanni Battista Piranesi built the Cavalieri di Malta, where the keyhole is now located, in the 1760s. Since the Knights of Malta own this keyhole, you’ll technically be standing on the Republic of Malta’s soil while in Italy! But, sorry, they won’t stamp your passport.
Take a moment to admire the maritime-themed architecture and keep your eyes peeled for Masonic symbols. Note, if you want to visit the Cavalieri di Malta’s stunning gardens, you will have to schedule an appointment online and pay a small fee.
Finding the Aventine Keyhole
Located at the intersection of via di S. Sabina and via di Porta Lavernale on Aventine Hill, the keyhole sits within easy walking distance of a couple metro stops and nearby ruins. At only a 10-minute walk, the Circo Massimo is the closest metro stop to the Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta. The Piramide metro stop is also only about a 15-minute walk. Keep in mind that the Aventine Keyhole is only a 20-minute walk south from the Colosseum, so it’s an easy detour from Rome’s major ruins.
Take Time to Smell The Roses…and Oranges
There’s no need to rush away after you’ve peeped through the Aventine Keyhole. Indeed, there’s a wonderful garden on the same street as the Aventine Keyhole many tourists have no idea exists. The Giardino degli Aranci (English: Orange Garden) is so named for the pungent scent of its many orange trees. Measuring over 7,500 square meters, Giardino degli Aranci offers guests a 360-degree, hilltop view of Rome. By the way, nearby the Giardino degli Aranci is Rome’s Rose Botanical Garden. Be sure to schedule some extra time to explore these two attractions when visiting the Aventine Keyhole.