A practical guide to finding the secret Aventine Keyhole in Rome, Italy: how to get there, interesting facts, what to see nearby.
The Aventine Keyhole is one of the most peculiar attractions in Rome. As the name suggest it is a keyhole, an aperture in a door through which you can peek however, it is a very special one indeed.
As you put your eye to it, you will see an unobstructed view of St Peter’s Dome, perfectly framed by the round edges of the keyhole itself and beautifully manicured hedges of a secret garden!
The view is wonderful and free. This is how to get there and what to expect.
Where is the secret Aventine Keyhole of Rome
The Aventine Keyhole is on the top of the Aventine Hill, one of the 7 ancient hills of Rome. The keyhole is in the door of the instuture of the Knights of Malta and and its official address is Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta 3, 00153 Rome.
How to get to the Aventine Keyhole: Map
The best way to get to the Aventine Keyhole is on foot. The closest metro station is Circo Massimo: this is at the bottom of the Aventine Hill and the walk to the hole from there takes less then ten minutes (it is uphill so take your time!).
The same stop is served by Tram N. 3.
As you walk up from the hill, you will first pass the belvedere over Circus Maximus, then turn left: on foot, first you pass Rome’s rose garden, then the Garden of Oranges (Giardino degli Aranci), Santa Sabina and finally you get to the piazza.
The keyhole is on your right and you are unlikely to miss it because it is rather conspicuous, if you know it is there, and there is always quite a line of people waiting to have a peek!
What to expect at the keyhole on the Aventine
Peeking through the Aventine Keyhole is free and it only takes a minute or so. The dome is right in front of you and the only thing that may keep you there longer is trying to get a good shot!
The problem you may have is light: in many cases, the light against the horizon doesn’t allow enough contrast to catch the dome on camera. Phones are particularly bad for this: if you have a standard camera with a manual zoom, that is usually better or you may need some time to experiment with exposure and lens positioning.
Usually, there is a bit of a queue at the keyhole and you often even find a snack van selling water, crisps, sandwiches etc.
What is the Aventine Keyhole
The Keyhole is in the door of an estate belonging to the Priory of Knights of Malta and hosting the Order of Malta.
The Priorate and estate has an interesting history: in origin, it seems to have belonged to Alaric II and in 939 it was donated to the benedictine monks, who turned it into a monastery.
In the XII century, it changed hands and became the property of the Knights Templars and finally, in 1312, it went to the Knights of Rhodes. In the XV century, the Knights became the Sovereign Order of Malta and the estate became their priory.
In 1765, Cardinal Rezzonico commissioned architect Piranesi to redesign the square and it is to this architect that we owe the appearance of the square as we see it now.
To pay homage to the Knights, Piranesi included many nautical and military symbols in the square and he is also the artist behind the church of Santa Maria del Priorato and the beautiful gardens inside the priory, sadly only rarely open to the public.
What to see nearby
The keyhole is on top of the Aventine Hill: you can find my guide to the Aventine area here.