Book an Hotel in Rome

by : Paola Lo Russo

Rome has been at the center of european history for thousands years. No surprise then to find so many people trying to book an hotel in Rome, to really appreciate every detail of the city, inch-by-inch. The best thing is how every major attraction or monument still hides stories and details not always well known as the attraction itself. This time I'll show you the Passetto

On the right side of St. Peter's Square, just next to the columns, it is impossible not to notice a long wall, about 25-30 feet tall. It looks like a fortification wall, similar to the ones built in ancient times around most cities, to protect their boundaries against besieging enemies. But nobody ever realize that this one conceils a walkable gallery that runs all the wall long, leading to Sant'Angelo Castle, on the western bank of the river Tiber, about 300 metres away.
Romans call this wall Passetto (italian for small passage), also known in old times as Corridore di Borgo.

The origin of the Passetto's wall dates back to the mid 6th century when Totila, the Ostrogoth king who had conquered great part of the Italian peninsula, ordered to build a first defensive wall on this spot. It soon crumbled down and today, only a few stone blocks of this primitive structure still survive.

Pope Leo III had it rebuilt, in the first half of the 7th century, but once again the wall did not last very long.

In 846 Rome was set under siege by the Saracens, but while the ancient walls built by emperor Aurelianus in the 3rd century still protected the inner city, the Vatican and other areas located outside the aforesaid set of walls, protected by a rebuilt version of Totila's wall, were easily sacked by the invaders. That time St.Peter's treasury was plundered and even the tomb of the apostle Peter was profaned.

Around 850, pope Leo IV turned the Vatican into a fortified citadel by having a whole set of defensive walls built: the present Passetto was only a segment of their whole length, as they stretched for 3 Km (1.3 miles), with 44 towers.

The conceiled passage let pope Clement VII escape from his apartments in the Vatican to the much safer castle, when in 1527 Rome was being menaced by lansquenets, the ill-famed mercenaries sent by emperor Charles V, who literally vandalized the city for about one year. That day 147 of the 189 Swiss Guards protecting the Vatican, including their commander, died fighting the forces of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V in order to allow Clement VII to escape through the Passetto, escorted by the other 40 guards.

Nowadays, after many restoration carried out for the Jubilee in year 2000, the Passetto is clean, consolidated and partially open to the castle's visitors, although still today only small groups are let in, and visits must be booked in advance. Don't miss the chance to be at the very heart of the history of the Eternal City: book an hotel in Rome near Sant'Angelo Castle and enjoy your tour of Rome!