It was time for the next place to see on this day in Rome . I had seen so much thus far thanks to your recommendations and was excited as to where your Live Tweets would send me next in this day. After the super coffee at Piazza Navona I was refreshed for lots more. Suddenly a few people were saying similar things to ‘go look through the keyhole on the gate of The Knights of Malta and be prepared for a great surprise’! So I asked a trusty source for directions and off I went 🙂
It seemed so inconspicuous. Up on Aventine hill, away from the main tourist spots and not far from the ‘Spanish Steps’, you wouldn’t tell this piazza was the scene of a great view. Apart from a queue of people waiting to look through a keyhole?
This was the gate to the Priory of The Knights of Malta. There is no entry to this place. The Knights of Malta are an order dating back for over 900 years. Knights, warriors, crusaders? Call them what you will, driven out of Jerusalem in the middle ages and then to Rhodes. From there they ruled over Malta before Napoleon took their land. In this modern era the order is about 13,000 strong and serves with many volunteers helping much of the world’s neediest people without any prejudice on race or religion. A little like the Red Cross.
Today this small enclosed palace they have on top of Aventine hill is theirs, given to them extraterritoriality by Italy with sovereign status. It has observer status in the United Nations and embassies in over 100 countries. They issue their own sovereign passports for instance and postal stamps. It is open for debate. Many think it is not a country and treated like an Embassy on Italian soil. However many would also say that this plot of land is a country in itself due to status, sovereignty and that the Grand Master is even given the same welcome as a head of state when travelling. So – when looking through this little keyhole (in Italy) you peer through the arched bushes in the garden of the Sovereign Order of the Knights of Malta, and perfectly placed in the middle, the dome of St. Peter’s – The Vatican! 3 countries!
If you are in Rome you just have to go and see. Surely a stunning surprise. I had just finished looking myself when I heard engines behind me. Noise of excitement had broken out and I looked around. Well, what another and charming surprise this was. A collection of vintage Fiats had been brought into the piazza ready for a race 🙂 A fantastic collection of well maintained models they were. A crowd started to gather as well as a few Romans on classic mopeds. I hung around of course. Great atmosphere and great fun.
I felt I had done so much already. The day was only half done though, wow! Where in Rome would the Twitter followers send us next? 😀