Passetto del Biscione: how to see this stunning and unexpected secret spot in Rome

by marta

Passetto del Biscione: how to visit + all you need to know about this secret corner of Rome.

Passetto del Biscione is a beautiful, frescoes covered pedestrian passage in Rome city center.

The small tunnel is not secret as such; however, it is tucked away off a small, secluded square and it is position in such as way, you are unlikely to see it unless you know it is there!

The passage has been there for centuries but, for the longest time, it was in a poor state of repair.

More recently, it has been resorted and now it is a true Rome hidden gem!

This is all you need to know to plan a visit.

What is passetto del Biscione

Passetto del Biscione is a covered passage connecting Piazza del Biscione and Via di Grottapinta, in Rome city center.

From the outside, the passage looks like a short tunnel and it is a little dark and, dare I say, uninviting.

Inside of it however, a surprise awaits!

As you into the tunnel, you will find yourself under a stunning blue frescoed ceiling, and in between delicately decorated walls, framing a painted image of the Virgin!

The effect is beautiful: the image of the Virgin is located at the end of the tunnel and the shape of the passage and decorations on the way are studied so you feel drawn to her.

The blue of the ceiling is unexpected and helps lift the overall ambience of the place, giving (almost) the impression of being under a beautiful blue sky.

The beautify and the surprising nature of the passage are enough to justify a visit.

however, there is even more about this passage that makes it worth seeing.

Passetto del Biscione is in the area originally occupied by the ancient Theater of Pompey, a large roman theater dating form the I century BC.

The theatre is said to have been able to host up to 30,000 spectators and the current passetto seems to have been one of the areas connecting its large cavea to the outside.

The theater is not visible as such; however, it is still possible to guess its curved outline by looking at the shape of the buildings in Via di Grottapinta, still partially following its outline.

In the Middle Ages, the thater was repurspused into private homes and the original passage became a church, called San Salvatore in Arco (St Salvatore under the Arch).

In the XVI century, this area was part of the possessions of the Orsini family, who used this area as a private chapel.

It is likely that the name ‘Biscione’ comes from the family crest of the Orsini, which include an eel.

At this time, the passetto acquired a painting of the Virgin by Scipione Pulzone and the chapel took the name of Santa Maria in Grotta Pinta.

This painting is said to be at the center of a miraculous event.

Local people reported that painted virgin opened and closed her eyes and became, therefore, a sought after destination for pilgrims, coming from all over to pray for her intercession.

Fun fact! Since the passage was so hard to find, the difficult quest gave origin to a saying ‘Cerca’ Maria pe’ Roma’ (Lit. To look for Mary in Rome), the local equivalent to be looking for ‘a needle in a haystack’!

In later times, Santa Maria in Grottapinta was de-consacrated and the Virgin’s icon got moved to the nearby church of San Carlo ai catenary where the original can still be found.

Where is Passetto del Biscione and how to find it

Passetto del Biscione is a covered passage connecting Piazza del Biscione and Via di Grottapinta, in Rome city center.

It is very close to famous Campo de’ Fiori and the easiest way to get to it if walking from Campo de’ Fiori itself. From the square, identify the Farnese Cinema and then take the small street to its left, into Piazza del Biscione.

As you step onto the square, you will find the scenic Hotel Campo de’ Fiori and its characteristic facade, covered in green climbers: Passetto del Biscione is just in front, on the other side to the piazza!

What to see near Passetto del Biscione

Passetto del Biscione is in the heart of Rome city center and you can easily add a visit as you wander around its area.

Things to see near this secret passageway are:

Not sure how to include this attraction in your Rome itinerary? Check our Rome itinerary suggestions below:

Rome in a day: detailed Rome city centre itinerary for first time visitors

Rome in two days A detailed itinerary for two full days in Rome

Rome in three daysRome in four days – day-by-day 3 day Rome itinerary

Rome in five days – complete Rome itinerary with main attractions and less usual sites for visitors with more time in the city

Traveling to Rome with kids? Find our family guide to Rome here.

You may also like