Wilson and I took a 2hr night walking tour of Rome….full of scary ghost stories!  It was 42euro and well worth it.  Our guide was Giacomo – 1/2 French, 1/2 Italian…and spoke excellent English.  His accent simply added to the frightening bits!

We had decided that since Rome was “Wilson’s #1 stop” on our around the world trip – that he could have a special adventure.  He chose Mom to take on the night walk!

It started at 9:15pm.  Wilson and I left Rich and Lulu after supper.  We headed to the Parthenon – why not really??? when you have an hour to kill in Rome!  We played HEADS UP on the Pantheon steps.  We had fooled Lulu earlier and told her the Pantheon was a statue of a guy with no PANTS-ON!  Haha.

The Pantheon

Anyway – we met Giacomo and about 10 others (including 2 Canadians – one from Magnetewan…seriously!) and headed out walking.  I put our route on Strava – we covered 2.8km and a few awesome stories.  Here are some I can remember.

The first story was about Giordano – a monk who was learned.  He read a lot about religion and astronomy.  He believed that the earth was not flat and not the centre of the universe.  He also called into question the vaildity of the “virgin” Mary.  Needless to say, these beliefs and his best selling books about them landed him in hot water with the Vatican.  The Pope and the church wanted to be the “knower” of all things.  The Vatican sent for Giordano (not to say “hi”)!.  After 20 years of evading the guards, travelling through Europe and writing books….Giordano came back to Venice and was apprehended.  The Pope brought him to Rome and demanded that he tell the “truth” and therefore deny his previous beliefs and writings.  Giodavani would not.  He was burned to death in Campo de Fiori in front of many of his followers.  Years later when the Vatican was overthrown, students asked that a statue of Giordano be erected in the piazza.  It stands today for a symbol of free speech.  Every year on Feb 17th there is a gathering to remember him and celebrate freedom.

Next we learned about Jeoffy, a 16yo boy who wanted to be an executioner! (oh….the things to dream of being!…it was the 16th century though!).  He had been to witness a number of executions (these were often done in public squares and were considered “entertainment”.  So, for his first two executions he got two different kinds of rope and hanged his victims.  This didn’t draw a crowd.  He was disappointed so for an anchor he skewered them on posts and paraded them through the square.  The people loved it!.  He was a proud executioner and didn’t want to hide his face(as they usually did – not to be recognized).  He bought himself a beautiful red jacket and EVERYONE knew who he was.  He was a scholar and wrote detailed accounts of his executions (including the methods and the crowds reactions).  He worked directly for the Pope from age 16 to his death at age 84.  His records show he executed 516 people!

….sorry…..gross I know…..but interesting…especially in the dark streets of Rome gathered around Giacomo under the street lights.

The story that should make husbands think twice …began in the 4th century.  Sergia lived in a small town outside of Rome, she was a chemist.  She was experimenting and discovered the “best” poison potion.  It was colourless, tasteless, a few drops and you would be dead in 3 weeks after ingestion.  She decided to move to Rome and become rich.  She did just that.  Women all over Rome wanted the potion.  It was illegal to get divorced – so either the woman would kill themselves, run away and risk being found and killed, or kill their husbands –if they wanted out of bad relationships.  Sergia became rich.  She had her daughter move to Rome and help her selling the potion.  They built a big house together (that we were standing next to).  One day, Sergia’s daughter sold the potion to a woman who didn’t come “recommended” as they usually did.  This woman later changed her mind and decided not to poison her husband.  “She loved him”! and instead of selling back the potion, she went to the police.  She told them about Julia and her daughter and 58 other woman she knew of who had bought the potion.  In the end 53 women including Sergia and her daughter were killed!  The investigation found that Sergia’s potion was responsible for 600 deaths!  Oh—many many vengeful women!

The SCARY story of the night….and the ghost story – was about Olympia.  Olympia was a young girl who lived in a small town outside of Rome.  She wanted to move to Rome and marry a rich and powerful man.  She did just that.  She found a newly widowed man named Pamphilio.  He was 35years her senior.  They lived well and despite Olympia not being an educated woman, she was a smart business woman.  She spoke well and made a fortune for the Pamphilio family through selling and buying gold and silver and property. One day, Pamphilio died of the black plague.  He was old.  Olympia was worried that the family would have no use for her and send her back to her small town.  One of Pamphilio’s brothers had become the Pope, so she went to the Pope to ask him “what would become of me?”.  The Pope reassured Olympia that the family would not send her back and that in fact the family loved her.  She became very very “close” to the Pope (…you know what I mean….which is COMPLETELY not allowed!!!).  For years, she and the Pope worked “closely” together and all of the people and Rome knew she gave the Pope special counsel (wink wink).  One day though – the Pope died of the black plague.  THEN everyone started talking….was Olympia a witch?  Had she cursed these two men?  And they started to organize all the witches in Rome to put a curse on her.  Olympia knew this and once again went to the Vatican to seek advice.  She asked to sit and pray with the dead Pope’s body.  The guards let her in.  She was there for one hour, two hours, 1/2 a day…and then the guards came in to see what was happening …and she was gone!  She had stolen the Pope’s jewels, the gold candlesticks and everything valuable from the room.  She was getting away in her horse drawn chariot.  She was going as fast as she could, down the bank of the river Tiber.  She was being chased by the guards on horses.  She crossed the river on the Sisto bridge.  We were standing on the bridge!  Once she got across the bridge she suddenly fell ill and died.  The curses had worked!

view from the Sisto Bridge of the Vatican/St. Peter’s Basilica

Legend has it ….if you cross the bridge from the Vatican side to the Rome side between 4 and 5am…you will hear the sounds of the horses hooves galloping on the cobblestone streets, you will see the ghost of Olympia trying to get away and then, if you walk across the bridge – you too may die of the black plague!

*****Wilson…”Mom, what time is it?”   ****Mom…”10:30pm”.    ****Wilson…”Can we go home?  Can we get an Uber from here?  Please Mom?  I don’t want to walk anymore and especially not over this bridge!”    ****Mom…”We are fine…and we won’t be here at 4am…please don’t worry” .    ****Wilson “ok” (holding my hand tighter!

The funny story of the night …which skillfully Giacomo had to follow up on the ghost story… was about a Pope in the 17th century who was actually a woman!  She had firmly wrapped her breasts so noone would know she was a woman —until one day when she became PREGNANT!  As her belly grew, others started to wonder if she was a woman and when she gave birth —they KNEW IT!  They let her live but she was erased from the “book of Popes” and history.  After that embarassment, a special bench was made with a hole in it.  All new Popes (or prospects) would sit on the bench and be “checked out” from below.  Apparently noone wore underwear in those days!  –a fact Wilson found hilarious…..and another job I am sure I don’t want!

Lastly, we stopped at a Church – St Mary’s of Prayer and Death!  This church is not fancy…and has three skulls on the facade.  It is in a dark alley.  Giacomo tells about the times when Christians were killed in the thousands for their religious beliefs.  Most of these Christians were not rich and couldn’t afford to have a burial plot or any sort of mosaics or adornment with their graves.  St. Mary’s was built on the site of mass graves and an underground catacomb.  The church was erected to be a place of rememberence however, it too didn’t have any money…..so they used what they had for decoration……hmmm……well….lying around we have a lot of bones!!!  Yup…they used bones!  Femurs for crosses, ribs for candlesticks, vertebrae for columns!  Darn…the place was closed at 11pm.  Maybe tomorrow!

Can you find the three skulls?

This is meant to depict the body being the bones but the soul having eternal life (the hour glass with the wings to go to heaven)


11:30pm tour ends.  Giacomo offers advice as to how to get home.  Uber app won’t work…..so we walk and hail a cab.  Wilson is tired, a wee bit scared and mostly pumped by the candy I bought him to bribe him to start walking!

The next morning….Lauchlyn wakes up SO excited to hear about the stories.  I tell her the ghost story first!

*****Lauchlyn…”Mom, can we PLEASE go to the bridge at 4am?”     ****Mom ….seriously….I have two very different children!

Lauchlyn has heard and asked to be told these stories three times since.  She it intrigued by the ghosts and gore.  I thought the stories were great.  It is hard to imagine a time when these things really happened.