I have to walk past a cemetery every time I need to get to the Metro.
Rather than scurrying away with my head down, I slow down and peek through the gate.
If I have enough time and €3, I go in without fail.
It might seem strange to wander aimlessly through a graveyard, but the non-Catholic cemetery is one of the most tranquil spots in all of Rome.
Piramide metro is just beyond the wall, and traffic speeds along Viale Ostiense, but the cemetery itself feels almost silent.
Among the headstones, are pomegranate trees and wild strawberries. Perfect hedges, cypress trees, and tiny purple flowers populate the space.
The Cimitero Acattolico is also sometimes call the Cimitero dei protestanti or Cimitero degli Inglesi.
Non-Catholic cemetery, Protestant graveyard, the English cemetery.
Many names for the same place, nestled on one edge of Testaccio and sitting a few meters outside of the ancient Aurelian walls.
However the “Protestant Cemetery” is a bit of a misnomer. People from many faiths, including Islam, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism and Confucianism, are all buried here.
It is the final resting place of writers, diplomats, artists and scholars. Most famous of all may be English poets Shelley and Keats.
I am always struck by the grave of American sculptor William Wetmore Story.
He is buried with his wife Emelyn, under an Angel of Grief which he himself designed.
In addition to the nearly 300 gravesides, the Cemetery is also home to a cat sanctuary.
If you turn left as you enter the gate of the cemetery, you will leave behind the shadowed walkways and pop out into a meadowy space in front of the recently restored Pyramid of Cestius.
In this section, you’ll find the grave of John Keats, who died in Rome from tuberculosis at the age of 25.
His dying request was to be laid to rest under a tombstone bearing no name or date, only the words, “Here lies One whose Name was writ in Water.”
It is a beautiful and calm space to visit if you are ever in the area.
I have to agree with Shelley, who wrote: “It might make one in love with death, to think that one should be buried in so sweet a place.”
Cimitero Acattolico (Campo Cestio)
Via Caio Cestio, 6
00153 Roma, Italy
Open: Monday-Saturday 9:00 am – 5:00 pm (last entrance at 4:30 pm), and Sundays 9:00 am – 1:00 pm (last entrance at 4:30 pm).
Cost: Suggested donation of €3.