view through the Aventine Hill Keyhole

Peek through the Aventine Hill keyhole and discover a surreal view that transcends both time and borders. Located in Rome, this hidden gem offers a unique perspective on not one, but two other countries. As you peer through the ancient keyhole, a picturesque sight unfolds before your eyes, showcasing a perfect alignment of St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican City, and the lush gardens of Villa del Priorato di Malta.

The Aventine Hill keyhole has become a well-kept secret among locals and curious travellers alike. Its allure lies in the sense of wonder. As you gaze through this magical peephole, you’ll marvel at the seamless fusion of architectural masterpieces and natural beauty, all in a single frame.

This captivating view has made the Aventine Hill keyhole a must-visit attraction, attracting photography enthusiasts, art lovers, and curious wanderers from around the world. It’s a truly unique experience that allows you to transcend physical boundaries and witness multiple countries converging into a single, breathtaking vista.

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History and significance of the Aventine Hill Keyhole

The history of the Aventine Hill keyhole dates back centuries, intertwining with the rich tapestry of Rome’s past. The keyhole itself is part of the gate to the headquarters of the Knights of Malta, an ancient order that traces its origins back to the Middle Ages. The Knights of Malta have played a significant role in European history, serving as protectors of the Christian faith during the Crusades.

Priory of The Knights of Malta symbols above the gate

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 onto to Rhodes.

From there they ruled over Malta before Napoleon took their land. And now, 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 its own 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.

This gate with the keyhole is the forbidden entrance to this mini country, The Priory of The Knights of Malta. 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.

The keyhole, known as the “Peephole of Rome,” has a unique significance. It symbolizes the unity between the Vatican City and Italy, as well as the connection between the spiritual and secular realms. Looking through the keyhole, you can witness the blending of these two worlds, a visual representation of the harmonious coexistence between religion and state.

Location and access to the Aventine Hill Keyhole

Situated on the Aventine Hill, one of Rome’s seven hills, the Aventine Hill keyhole is nestled within the grounds of the Villa del Priorato di Malta.

The villa is home to the Embassy of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, offering a fascinating glimpse into the history and traditions of this ancient order.

To access the keyhole, visitors must make their way to the Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta, which can be reached by walking up the Aventine Hill.

The piazza looks inconspicuous but you will probably see the one difference to other. A queue of people waiting to look through a little hole in a gate. The piazza is not far from the Spanish Steps if you are doing a walk and tour of the area.

queue for the keyhole on aventine hill, rome

The view through the keyhole: What can you see?

As you look through the Aventine Hill keyhole, a breathtaking vista unfolds before your eyes. The perfectly framed view showcases a stunning alignment of St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican City, and the lush gardens of Villa del Priorato di Malta. The sight is a testament to the timeless beauty of Rome, where history, art, and nature converge in perfect harmony.

view of the vatican from piazza on Aventine Hill, Rome

There are 3 countries involved actually because you look through the keyhole to 2 countries whilst standing in a third, Italy.

The view through the keyhole offers a unique perspective on these iconic landmarks. St. Peter’s Basilica, with its majestic dome, stands as a symbol of Christianity and the Vatican City. The Vatican, the smallest independent state in the world, is a sovereign entity that has played a significant role in shaping Western civilization.

The symbolism behind the Aventine Hill Keyhole

The Aventine Hill keyhole holds profound symbolism, representing the convergence of multiple countries and ideologies. It serves as a visual metaphor for the interconnectedness of nations and the power of unity. Looking through the keyhole, you witness the harmonious coexistence of the Vatican City and Italy, two entities with distinct identities, yet united in their shared history and cultural heritage.

The keyhole also represents the bridge between the spiritual and secular realms. It offers a glimpse into a world where faith and governance intersect, reminding us of the delicate balance between these two spheres of influence. The view through the keyhole invites contemplation and reflection, encouraging us to ponder the mysteries of life and the interconnectedness of all things.

Fun facts about the Aventine Hill Keyhole

– The Aventine Hill keyhole is said to have inspired writers, artists, and poets throughout history. Its unique perspective has been captured in countless works of art, literature, and photography.

– The keyhole gained international recognition after being featured in the popular movie “The Great Beauty,” directed by Paolo Sorrentino. The film showcased the keyhole’s enchanting view, further increasing its allure among travellers.

– The keyhole is perfectly aligned with a path leading to the Basilica of Santa Sabina, offering a picturesque walk through history.

– The Knights of Malta, who reside in the Villa del Priorato di Malta, continue to uphold the traditions and values of the ancient order, contributing to the preservation of cultural heritage.

Exploring the surrounding area of the Aventine Hill

While the Aventine Hill keyhole is undoubtedly the highlight of the area, there are other hidden gems waiting to be discovered. Take a leisurely stroll through the Aventine Hill, and you’ll encounter charming streets, beautiful gardens, and historic churches.

One notable attraction is the Orange Garden, also known as the Giardino degli Aranci. This tranquil oasis offers panoramic views of Rome, with its orange trees, fragrant flowers, and shady benches providing the perfect spot to relax and soak in the atmosphere.

Another nearby attraction is the Church of Santa Sabina, an ancient basilica dating back to the 5th century. With its stunning architecture and serene interior, it offers a peaceful retreat from the bustling streets of Rome.

Tips for visiting the Aventine Hill Keyhole

– Visit early in the morning or during sunset for the best lighting and fewer crowds. This will allow you to fully immerse yourself in the magic of the keyhole’s view.

– Be respectful while visiting the Villa del Priorato di Malta and the surrounding area. Remember that it is a residential area, and noise should be kept to a minimum.

– Bring a camera or smartphone to capture the breathtaking view through the keyhole. The image you capture will serve as a lasting memory of your visit.

– Take your time to explore the Aventine Hill and its surroundings. There are many hidden treasures waiting to be discovered, so make sure to leave some room in your itinerary for further exploration.

It was less than quiet when I was last there as a collection of vintage Fiats had been brought into the piazza ready for a race.

fiat cars and mopeds in Rome

Other hidden gems in Rome

Rome is a city filled with hidden treasures that are not like the packed usual spots, and the Aventine Hill keyhole is just one of many. As you explore the city, be sure to visit other lesser-known attractions that offer unique insights into Rome’s rich history and culture.

Some notable hidden gems include the Basilica of San Clemente, a multi-layered church that reveals ancient Roman ruins beneath its surface, and the Capuchin Crypt, an eerie yet fascinating underground burial site decorated with the bones of Capuchin friars.

Another hidden gem is the Capuchin Crypt, located beneath the Church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini. This macabre yet fascinating site is adorned with the skeletal remains of over 4,000 Capuchin friars. Each room within the crypt is meticulously decorated with bones, creating a hauntingly beautiful display that serves as a reminder of the transient nature of life.

If you’re looking for a tranquil escape from the bustling city, the Orto Botanico di Roma, Rome’s botanical gardens, is the perfect retreat. Spanning over 12 hectares, these lush gardens offer a serene oasis where you can wander among a vast collection of plants from around the world. From rare and exotic species to beautifully landscaped pathways, the botanical gardens provide a peaceful respite for nature lovers and avid photographers alike.

For those seeking a taste of ancient Roman history, the Domus Aurea, also known as Nero’s Golden House, is a hidden gem waiting to be explored. This sprawling palace complex, once the extravagant residence of Emperor Nero, showcases the grandeur and opulence of ancient Rome. As you wander through the underground chambers and marvel at the intricate frescoes that have survived centuries, you’ll be transported back in time to a bygone era.

Other top tips from me are The Church of Saint Ignatius of Loyola with its amazing dome illusion. And for a view od Rome completely then go to the top of Il Vittoriano.

In addition to these hidden gems, Rome is also home to countless charming neighborhoods and quaint streets that offer a glimpse into the city’s vibrant local culture. From the colorful houses of Trastevere to the bohemian atmosphere of Monti, each neighborhood has its own unique character and charm, waiting to be discovered.


The Aventine Hill keyhole is more than just a tourist attraction; it is a portal into a world where boundaries blur and beauty knows no limits. Through this tiny peephole, you can witness the merging of countries, the intertwining of history and culture, and the power of unity. It is an experience that will leave you in awe and remind you of the wonders that can be found in the most unexpected places.

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  1. Love your pictures! I wish mine turned out that well. We finally went to the keyhole on our last week in Rome before we moved back to the states. Have to say probably would have gone a lot more often if I didn’t have to climb up that hill in the summer heat. The view through the keyhole and of the city from the orange gardens made it worth it however!

  2. Debbie @ Buisson International says:

    Hi Paul,
    I saw your article in the BA magazine while heading back to London from the States. What a fantastic idea to go minute by minute from your followers’ ideas!! The article really caught my interest because I am headed to Rome on Wednesday. It will be my first time in Italy, and I can’t wait to explore a new country. I am looking forward to diving into your blog posts to help me plan my own adventures. Thanks!

    1. Paul Steele says:

      Hi Kate, Thank you

  3. Hi Paul, I am very glad you have added me on Google+. So I visited your site that is wonderful. This post is a cultural journey. The view through the keyhole mix a little mystery and perfection.

    A Verdade e Cruel

    1. Paul Steele says:

      Hi 🙂 lovely to meet you

  4. Ysabel Garcia-Betteridge says:

    Wow made me want to visit… day when I have some money….and one of those Fiats too, they’re so cute but as originals I bet they’re expensive :/

    Really great pics though and ‘The Priory of the Knights of Malta’, well who knew, not me!! Dan Brown and The DaVinci Code doesn’t seem quite so ‘unreal’ now 😉

    1. Paul Steele says:

      haha yes I wanted one of those cars too 🙂

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