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Ah, Rome…the ancient capital city of Italy. Founded in 753 BC, this city features stunning architecture such as the Colosseum, Pantheon and Trevi Fountain. It was the center of a vast empire that ruled the European continent for centuries.
In Rome, spirits abound. How could they not, with its long and oft times turbulent history.
For the fourth installment in the October series, here are ghost stories from Rome.
Ghost Stories from Rome
This collection of stories represent the old city well. Like many big cities, Rome never sleeps. People enjoy themselves well into the night.
Be in the right place at the right time, after dark, and you might experience one of Rome’s famous hauntings.
Perhaps the most famous of Rome’s ghost, Beatrice…born in 1577…belonged to one of the city’s leading families. Her tragic story inspired painters, poets and novelists.
The noblewoman’s father, Francesco, was controlling and abusive. After years of enduring his violence, Beatrice reported him. Her requests for help ignored, the young woman, her brothers and stepmother decided to kill Francesco.
Driven by despair, the man’s family gave him opium to make him sleep and then beat him with a rolling pin and hammer. They threw his body off a balustrade, to simulate an accident.
Authorities were not fooled. After eventually receiving full confessions from the family members, they were sentenced to death by beheading and executed at dawn on September 11, 1599, on Ponte Sant’Angelo. According to her last wishes, Beatrice was buried in an anonymous tomb in the cemetery of San Pietro in Montorio.
Every year, on the night of September 10, Beatrice’s ghost walks back and forth across Ponte Sant’Angelo…the bridge leading to Castel Sant’Angelo…cradling her severed head in her hands.
The Executioner of Rome
Beatrice’s ghost isn’t the only one wandering near the castel.
Mastro Titta (1779 – 1869) put 514 people to death, during his 70 years as Rome’s official executioner. Mastro lived on the other side of the Tiber River, because executioners were not allowed to dwell within the city walls. He only crossed over the river on the Ponte Sant’Angelo at dawn on the day of an execution.
His methods of execution included hanging, beating and beheading. To calm the condemned, Mastro offered them a pinch of snuff.
Just before sunrise, Mastro appears near Castel Sant’Angelo, wrapped in a red cloak. He supposedly loves to walk near the places of his executions. And he still offers the unsuspecting a pinch of snuff. If you meet this cloaked ghost and he offers you snuff…run.
Costanza Conti De Cupis
This interesting ghost tale originated in the 17th century. Noblewoman Costanza Conti De Cupis haunts the family palace overlooking Piazza Navona.
Beautiful Costanza possessed the most perfect hands in the city. Artist Bastiano even made a plaster cast of one of Costanza’s hands and displayed it in his workshop for the citizens of Rome to admire.
One day a stranger…some say a friar of San Pietro…saw the plaster cast and prophesied that the woman would soon lose her hand. When Costanza heard the dire news, she withdrew into her home and refused to leave it, hoping to avoid the prediction.
However, while embroidering she pricked her finger with a needle. The small wound became infected. And then gangrene set in, causing her to lose her hand through amputation. Septicemia spread through her body and Costanza died a few days later.
It’s said when the moon shines on the windows of Costanza’s palace, which is now a luxury hotel, the woman’s ghostly hand…just her hand…appears at a window.
After Nero’s death in 68 AD, the eccentric emperor was buried in Piazza del Popolo. A walnut tree marked the site.
It’s said the negative energy from Nero’s bones attracted evil spirits and demons that took the form of black crows. They terrorized the residents in the area around the piazza, along with Nero’s ghost who wandered about as well. In 1099, the people appealed to Pope Pasquale II for help.
After receiving instructions in a vision, Pope Pasquale cut down the walnut tree, dug up Nero’s bones, burned them and scattered them in the Tiber River. Nero and the spirits disappeared and residents built a chapel where the tree once grew.
In 1472 Pope Sixtus V built the current Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo on the spot. Inside, above the main alter, an arch depicts the act of cutting down the tree.
Ghosts of the Colosseum
The Colosseum is easily Rome’s most recognizable structure. Construction on the huge stadium began in 72 AD and finished eight years later. Intended for entertainment, the Colosseum served as the site for public executions and battles to the death between gladiators. Historians speculate that between 500,000 and 1,000,000 deaths occurred within those stone walls.
It’s easy to see why the Colosseum reigns as the most haunted place in Rome…and perhaps the world.
Many staff members and visitors report paranormal experiences here. A lone Roman soldier stands guard at night, when the structure is closed to visitors. Others see ghostly crowds in the Colosseum that suddenly disappear and hear the sounds of gladiator battles. Moans, screams and cries of pain echo through the subterranean passageways. Visitors report drops in temperature, floating orbs of light and the growls of invisible captive animals as well.
Julius Caesar’s ghost roams near the Colosseum. Legend has it that Caesar’s ashes were interred in a lead ball in what is now Cairo. When the sphere moved to Vatican City in 1585, Pope Sixtus V opened it to see if the ashes remained, releasing Caesar’s ghost to wander.
My daughter, grandson and I visited Italy in 2017. Our explorations began in Rome and ended there 12 days later.
Although the city possesses incredible energy, I did not experience any paranormal activities there. I could, however, feel the heaviness within the Colosseum. With it’s complex history, I think most everyone does. Perhaps if I visited the stadium at night, with the throngs of people absent, I might catch sight of a Roman soldier or hear the cries of the gladiators. Maybe next time…
Have you visited The Eternal City?
October Ghost Stories Series 2021
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