If you are in Rome and have already visited enough monuments, squares and archaeological sites, you could go in search of lesser-known and mysterious places, to experience the thrill of adventure and step out of the classic tourist routes.
The first mysterious place you should visit is in the heart of the Esquilino district, in Piazza Vittorio, which was designed in the late 1800s to welcome the King and his entourage, who had just moved to Rome from Turin.
Walking through the large garden that occupies the center of the square, you will notice first of all that the neighbourhood is now a multi-ethnic area where communities of people from every continent coexist.
In the center of the square, you can then observe a fountain with a unique sculptural group, called by the Romans the “mixed fry” (as it recalls a typical fish dish, composed of small fishes, squids and fried shrimps): It was designed by the architect Rutelli, ancestor of the mayor of Rome of the last Jubilee of 2000; it was initially designed to be positioned as an ornament in the fountain of Piazza Esedra (today Piazza della Repubblica).
Searching in one of the corners of the garden, you will finally find the mysterious place we are talking about: the alchemical door, also known as the magic door.
To discover its history you have to go back in time: in the second half of the 1600s, a certain Marquis Massimiliano Palombara di Pietraforte, passionate about esoteric sciences, chose this place to build his villa.
The Marquis had created a veritable circle of esoteric enthusiasts, including the young Milanese doctor and alchemist Giuseppe Borri, who began conducting several experiments in the villa’s laboratory to find the philosopher’s stone. It is said that at a certain point the young doctor had to hastily leave the city, as he was wanted by the fearsome papal inquisition, leaving to the marquis his parchments with the complex formulas that no one was able to decipher. So it was that the Marquis Palombara had them engraved on the entrance door of his laboratory, to make sure they weren’t lost.
When the renovation works began at the end of the 1800s, the Villa Palombara was demolished: the only part that was spared was the entrance portal to the Marquis’s alchemical workshop, which was called “Porta Alchemica”. The door looks like a small walled portal, surrounded by a jamb of white stone where the ancient alchemical symbols are still visible. The door is flanked by two bizarre statues, added only after the demolition, which represent an Egyptian divinity called Bes, highly venerated in Rome during the imperial age.
On the door you will find some mysterious inscriptions: “Divine Spirit” (in Hebrew) and “There are three wonderful things: God and man, the mother and the Virgin, the one and the trine” and “the dragon of the Hesperides guards the the entrance to the magic garden and without Ercole Giasone would not have tasted the delights of Colchis “(the latter two in Latin).
Truly a magical and mysterious place!
Fragrance Tour organizes guided tours in the Esquilino district, to which you can associate a treasure hunt or a tailor-made food tour. Contact us for more information.