The Magic Keyhole in Rome

During part of a driving tour of ancient Rome this year, our (my wife's and my) tour guide drove us to a small courtyard on one of the hills near the Colosseum. As he parked the car, I noticed two rather serious looking militia with automatic weapons standing in the courtyard—and I hoped they weren't there for me! They had their fingers over the triggers the whole time I was there, though they seemed friendly enough as we passed by on our way to a mysterious door.

The tour guide told us that there was a delightful treat waiting for us; he told us to look into a small keyhole, not a half inch in diameter, and see what we could see. It was obvious many people had touched the door around the keyhole, so it had to be a somewhat popular thing to do.

My own suspicions made me hesitate from putting my eye to the hole—whenever I'm told to do something touristy, like rub the belly of a bronze Billiken statue, I remember what college kids did to such statues—but when my eye came into focus, I saw a brilliant and beautiful sight. A sight that cannot be adequately captured by a camera:

Keyhole - Rome, Italy

(View at original size, to see what's in the very middle)

I was quite taken aback, as was my wife! This is one of the little treats you will miss if you only visit the main 'touristy' attractions around Rome. Apparently, the Knights of Malta (an order of Knights that has existed since the Crusades, and is still active—albeit less of a fighting order nowadays), have curated a beautiful garden so symmetrically and perfectly for quite some time, along a straight path to the dome of St. Peter's Basilica!

If you want to take a better picture than I did, use a long lens (120mm+), and set your focus manually to infinity. Expose for the dome of the basilica, and then bring up the foliage and door in post, by lightening the shadows. I only had my 18-35mm lens, so I had to shoot wide.

More history here and here. Larger image here.


Wow! I did click to view it at original size and that is incredibly beautiful! What a special treat that must have been and a most precious memory, too. Thanks for sharing that with us.