In a city where people queue for miles to see a ceiling and flock to the site where thousands were slaughtered for entertainment, the Church of Santa Maria della Concezione is nonetheless an especially bizarre and macabre sight. This Capuchin church on Via Veneto is, in itself, unremarkable – what fascinates is what lies beneath. On entering the catacombs, where the skeletons of over 4,000 monks were interred over a period of a century, a gimlet-eyed woman instructs you sternly not to take photos and to have respect. You then enter to be greeted by the surreal vision of Bone Art: femurs zig-zag up the walls, clavicles form crosses, skulls pile high, under the eye of the flying monk skeleton on the ceiling. So let’s get this straight: taking photos would disrespect the remains, but making a lamp out of a skull is okay? Hmmm…
Location: Via Veneto 27 (near Piazza Barberini).
Crypt open: 9-12, 3-6, Friday-Wednesday.
Get a certain distance out on the Via Appia, the tomb of Caecilia Metella or the Circus of Romulus perhaps, and walk back in, taking in the odd catacomb or church on the way, ending up at Porta Ostiense by the Pyramid of Cestius - what I call the Quo Vadis experience!
Get to Forum just before it opens (at 9am I think), and go straight in, in the cool of the morning and before it gets too busy. Or walk through it a few times and get to know it, perhaps on the way to the Palatine or Colosseum. And remember the other fora and try to ignore the Mussolini-era Via dei Fori Imperiali carved across them.
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