Finding the Secret Keyhole of the Knights of Malta in Rome, Villa del Priorato di Malta

In Rome, there is a secret keyhole, one that if looked through, holds a secret that should only live in fantasy.

I could not believe what I was seeing. I was crouched down in front of a beautiful white facade with ferns dangling from the top, otherwise quite unassuming compared to the rest of Rome. I squinted with one eye, my tongue poking from my lips as I tried to concentrate on keeping my balance while I peered through what looks like a normal ole’ keyhole in an ornate door.

There’s nothing ordinary about this secret keyhole in Rome.

The door was of metal and wood, painted in a deep forest green that had chipped away in great big chunks leaving it scarred. The keyhole was through an elaborate chunk of metal in the door which fanned out into a flame-like design. Sure, it was interesting, but passing by it I would have never thought something fantastical lay beyond on the other side. Some secret garden with something unbelievable to behold.

Through that keyhole, past the aged and rusting hammered iron, through the blackness of the innards of the door — there was a tunnel of hedges inside a garden, and in the distance as your sight travels through that mysterious garden and its hedge tunnel, you see what had me so astonished.

There it was, Saint Peter’s Basilica far off into the distance, and the keyhole and path of the hedges was a direct line of sight across the entire city of Rome.

The secret keyhole in Rome, at the Knights of Malta Villa, is one hidden gem of Italy everyone should see when visiting the Eternal City. Here's how to find it.

Villa del Priorato di Malta 

What is the Villa Del Priorato di Malta exactly? It is a 10th-century Benedictine Monastery that had been passed down to the Knights Templar, and after their order was destroyed during the inquisition, it passed to the Knights Hospitallers — the predecessor to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. The Knight of Malta is the oldest surviving order of chivalry, and the villa is one of two locations of the order granted extraterritorial status.

How to find the secret keyhole in Rome

If you are looking to check out the Villa Malta, the map is below. To take a good photo it is extremely hard because there may be many people crowded around, also if you have a DSLR, bring a tripod. This photo was taken with my iPhone and I did not even know I had snapped a clear photo after failing with my DSLR.

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*This was a stop on one of my Walks of Italy tours. To see other sights from the tour, check them out HERE. As always, my thoughts, reactions, and use of the word “gnarly” are my own*

Want to see more of Italy? How about Umbria and Tuscany, or Ponza Island, or Rome? Check out these Italy guides for all things history, culture, culinary, and adventure.

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  • Maria Falvey
    Posted August 5, 2014

    Fun shots Ryan – I do feel like I’m in a secret spot with a private view. Fun!

    • JustChuckinIt
      Posted August 5, 2014

      Thanks Maria, glad ya dig em! It was pretty wild to see that!

  • Mary @ Green Global Travel
    Posted August 5, 2014

    Wow, what a view through just a keyhole! It must have been an exciting experience to come across that unexpectedly! Thanks for sharing!

    • JustChuckinIt
      Posted August 13, 2014

      Truly unexpectedly Mary, I think I even dropped an F-bomb when I looked through since I was so surprised!

  • rebecca
    Posted August 5, 2014

    wow! you did a pretty good job with the photo for an iphone. I had heard about this keyhole but never managed to find it when I was in Rome. Such a shame – it looks awesome

    • JustChuckinIt
      Posted August 13, 2014

      Thanks for that Rebecca, I really had no clue I caught it until downloading all of my iPhone photos recently!

  • Dale
    Posted August 8, 2014

    We were lucky enough to see this with some of our friends who lived in Rome at the time and they took us on a midnight drive of the city and this was one of the stops.

    If you think this looks cool in the daytime, you should return and see it at night 🙂

    • JustChuckinIt
      Posted August 13, 2014

      That’s awesome Dale, glad you got a chance to see it as well, but at night?! So cool. I really would have loved to experience it that way!

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