There really is no point in denying the appeal of a secret passageway. Sneaking around undetected, going places you shouldn’t, seeing things you’re not supposed to. It’s basically every kid’s dream. I mean, I can’t even tell you how many walls I casually leaned up against as a child, delicately knocking, listening for that telltale hollow noise on the other side that never came, but if it did surely indicated a surreptitious passageway to somewhere spectacular. But on Wednesday night, I experienced the secret passageway of all secret passageways. The big one. The motherlode. The silver tuna. The one that takes you from St. Peter’s to Castel Sant’Angelo, suspending you, incognito-style, over the streets of Rome just like you are an old-timey pope escaping sacking enemies bearing down on the Vatican (or, very specifically, like you are Pope Clement VII during the Sack of Rome in 1527. Or, if you really want to go there, like you are Robert Langdon hot on the tail of the Illuminati. But we don’t really want to go there, do we?)
The Passetto di Borgo was constructed in the 13th Century by Pope Nicholas III, thus beginning its illustrious history of serving as an escape route from Vatican City to the more heavily fortified Castel Sant’Angelo. The passetto is not normally open to the public, but this summer, as part of their Notti a Castel Sant’Angelo program, visitors are welcome to explore it every night from now until September 9. While the castle usually closes at sunset, for the rest of the summer they are reopening nightly from 8:30pm until 1am. The standard entrance fee of 10 euro applies, but in addition to the general coolness of visiting an ancient mausoleum turned fortress, there are concerts, an open bar (as in, a bar that is open, not unlimited beverages), and, oh yeah, access to the passetto.
What: Summer Nights at Castel Sant’Angelo
When: Now through Sept. 9. Every night but Monday, from 8:30pm – 1am
How much: 10 euro to enter the castle – includes access to all standard rooms, including the gorgeously frescoed Sala Paolina, as well as the chance to sneak down the passetto. The bar on the third level is open, and offers probably the best view to drink price ratio in Rome. We’re talking 3 euro prosecco with a rooftop view of all of Rome.