The Knights of Malta gate (Secret St. Peter's view)

A peek-a-boo view of St. Peter's dome through the keyhole on the gate to the headquarters of the Knights of Malta on Rome's Aventine Hill


View of St. Peter's through the Cavalieri di Malta Keyhole. (Photo by Gary Arndt)

Peek through this keyhole on a piazza designed by Piranesi in 1765, and you will see a garden path that ends with bushes perfectly framing the dome of St. Peter's in the distance.

What you are peering though are the gardens of the Villa del Priorato di Malta, one of the Rome properties of the famous Knights of Malta (I Cavalieri di Malta)—who are technically and more correctly called the Knights of St. John Hospitaler.

This is one of the last surviving orders of knights left over from the Crusades. But before you say, "Cool!" and rush off to join, I should warn you they wear rather unbecoming powder-blue uniforms, and they take a vow of chastity.

The knights left their late medieval home on the island of Malta long ago, and their headquarters are now here in Rome (if you're curious, it is at Via Condotti 68, at the corner of Via Bocca di Leone near the Spanish Steps.) This Aventine villa is actually home to the Order's ambassadors to Italy and the Holy See.

Ambassadors? Yep. The Italian state recognizes the sovereignty of this ancient Military Order, which mean there are actually three nations and three national captials contained within Rome: Italy, the Vatican, and the Knights of Malta. (» More in Italy's microcountries)

Tips & links

Details
ADDRESS

Atop the Aventine Hill at Piazza Cavalieri di Malta in Via di S. Sabina
www.orderofmalta.int

OPEN

Admission rare (but the point is not actually to go in, just to peep)

ADMISSION

Free (to look though the keyhole)

Roma Pass: No

TRANSPORT

Bus: 23, 280, 716, 75, 3B, N3, N9, N10,
Metro:Piramamide (B) or Circo Massimo (B)
Hop-on/hop-off: Vaticano

TOURS

Knights of Malta keyhole tours
These tours give you a peek through the keyhole:

How long does The Knights of Malta gate take?

Planning your day: It takes a whopping 10 seconds per person to peer through the keyhole—add another 2 minutes for you to figure out how to get a picture through it while keeping the dome in focus.

Still, getting here is takes good 20-minute journey each way on foot (so be sure to make it worth your while by seeing the other Aventine sights nearby).

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Knights of Malta gate tours
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Cavalieri di Malta
ADDRESS

Atop the Aventine Hill at Piazza Cavalieri di Malta in Via di S. Sabina
www.orderofmalta.int

OPEN

Admission rare (but the point is not actually to go in, just to peep)

ADMISSION

Free (to look though the keyhole)

Roma Pass: No

TRANSPORT

Bus: 23, 280, 716, 75, 3B, N3, N9, N10,
Metro:Piramamide (B) or Circo Massimo (B)
Hop-on/hop-off: Vaticano

TOURS

Knights of Malta keyhole tours
These tours give you a peek through the keyhole:



Useful links
SIGHTS

Tourist info: Turismoroma.it

Activities & tours: ContextTravel.com, Viator.com, SelectItaly.com, City-Discovery.com, Localguiding.com, Italy.artviva.com

Other useful sites: 060608.it, Vatican.va, Coopculture.it, Archeoroma.beniculturali.it, Museiincomuneroma.it, Comune.roma.it, Sovraintendenzaroma.it

LODGING
TRANSPORT

Public transport: Agenziamobilita.roma.it (all transit and driving/parking info); Atac.roma.it (bus & Metro/subway)

plane

Rome airports: Adr.it

Airport transfers: Trenitalia.com (express train: €14); Viator.com (private car: €14–€16.50); Terravision.eu (bus: €4), Cotralspa.it or Sitbusshuttle.com (bus: €5); Taxi: €45–€55

Airfares: Momondo.com, AutoEurope.comVayama.com, CheapOair.com, Cheapflights.comDoHop.com, CheapTickets.com, Priceline.com

train

Trains: Raileurope.com, Trenitalia.com, Seat61.com

automobile

Driving/parking: Sabait.it (Villa Borghese garage; €18/day), Atac.roma.it (outlying commuter parking lots; from €5 per day), Agenziamobilita.roma.it (more on the ZTL)

Car rentals:Autoeurope.com, Momondo.com, RentalCars.com, CheapOair.com, AutoSlash.com

ship

Cruise terminal: Port-of-rome.org (Civitavecchia)

Transport airport—cruise terminal: Viator.com (private car: 60–80 min, €29), Cotralspa.it (bus: 60–80 min, €4.30), Trenitalia.com (train, changing at a Rome station: 90–120 min. €11–€29),

Transport Rome hotels—cruise terminal: Viator.com (private car: 60–80 min, €29), Trenitalia.com (train: 60–80 min, €5–€15)

Shortcuts to popular planning sections:

Airfares, Cars, Trains, Tours, Packages, Cruises, Lodging, Itineraries, Info, Packing, Prep, Comm

Local info
National tourism authority: italia.it
Cultural patrimony: culturaitalia.it
Historic & cultural sites: beniculturali.it
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