As one can expect, Rome, one of the oldest cities in Europe with a rich history dating back thousands of years, has its fair share of haunted locations. Amidst its ancient ruins, vibrant piazzas, and bustling cobblestone streets, lie several locales where ghostly stories continue to spook tourists and locals alike. For those who revel in eerie legends and folklore that have been passed on for centuries, here are a few of the most haunted places in the Eternal City.
Only a short walk away from the Vatican, Castel Sant’Angelo sits along the Tiber river, shrouded in a mysterious aura. Castel Sant’Angelo was initially designed as Emperor Hadrian's mausoleum, later serving as a fortress and even a papal prison. Whispers of inexplicable noises and ghostly apparitions, reminiscent of those imprisoned within its dungeon walls, have circulated for centuries. Moreover, the bridge leading up to Castel Sant’Angelo, although adorned with beautiful angelic sculptures by the famous Bernini, conceals a dark history. In the 16th century, it served as a gruesome display for the bodies of executed individuals. Among these unfortunate souls was Beatrice Cenci, a noblewoman who aided in assassinating her abusive father and was tragically executed for the crime alongside her family on this bridge. Many have reported seeing her apparition wandering the bridge, particularly on stormy nights near the anniversary of her death.
The famous Roman square, Piazza Navona, is considered one of the most haunted places in Rome and home to a variety of ghostly tales. One of its most famous phantoms, Donna Olimpia, was a noblewoman and sister-in-law of Pope Innocent X. She was incredibly disdained by Romans at the time due to her notorious greed and influence over the Pope, even earning the nickname “Pimpaccia” (the woman full of sin). Legend has it that Donna Olimpia would speed through Piazza Navona on her horse-drawn carriage, a practice many claim to have witnessed to this day in her ghostly form, leaving a curse in her wake. To evade the curse, it is believed one must avoid looking at her and throw themselves on the ground.
Another apparition many claim to see in Piazza Navona is Costanza de Cupis, a noblewoman who was known for her beautiful hands that inspired artists during the Renaissance period. Tragically, she met her end when a sewing needle pricked her hand, resulting in a deadly infection that spread throughout her body. On moonlit nights, some claim to catch a glimpse of her ghostly hands reflected in the windows surrounding the piazza.
Catacombs of San Sabastiano
Rome is considered to be home to some of the oldest catacombs in the world and there are over 40 catacombs lying beneath the city’s surface. The Appian Way, considered to be the first highway built by the Romans in the year 312 BC, hosts an extensive network of catacombs that stretch for miles, most notably the Catacombs of San Sebastiano. These catacombs serve as the eternal resting place for early Christians, many of whom were martyrs and saints persecuted for their faith, unable to afford proper burials. Due to the catacombs’ subterranean, eerie ambience, many visitors report feeling goosebumps, ghostly presences, or unexplainable noises echoing through the labyrinth tunnels.
Emily Rascon is from San Diego, California and is currently in the process of completing her Masters in Human Geography through the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz. She has always had a passion for traveling and learning new languages, having lived in Germany and now Italy. Emily loves reading books, going hiking, and of course, practicing her Italian! In addition, Emily enjoys creating content on TikTok, where she documents her life abroad and encourages people to find the confidence to pursue their inner wanderlust.