In Italy, Sexy Halloween has yet to arrive. (Thank God).
Halloween here is still about scary, gross and disturbing costumes, if one dresses up at all.
However, the spirit of the undead is slowly catching on with more events than ever planned for the 31st of October. I’ll be at Testaccio Market’s Open Day, enjoying grilled meats to celebrate the fact that the real Italian holiday is 1 November (Ognisanti or All Saints’ Day).
But why celebrate only the saints? Italy has some of the most interesting cemeteries in the world – if you are willing to walk through the gates and among the graves…
This might sound disturbing to you, but cemeteries are places of culture and traditions that you must consider visiting in a new country.
Italy is no exception and boasts some of the creepiest but coolest final resting places. Here’s a list of the most interesting cemeteries in Italy, and how to visit them.
- Cimitero delle Fontanelle: is an ancient cemetery located in Naples. Its name (referring to a fountain) comes from the presence of water sources in ancient times. This cemetery “hosts” about 40,000 people who were victims of the great plagues in 1656 and 1836. Inside the caves you will also find a church built in the 19th century.
- Catacombe dei Cappuccini: can be found in Palermo, Sicily. The countless corpses exposed are food for thought about the brevity of life, vanity, and the futility of wordly goods. Walk along the tunnels and experience the reality of life and death.
- Cimitero di Staglieno: is the largest cemetery in Genova and one of the most important in Europe. The gorgeous architecture has led to the final resting place being considered an open air museum. Here you can find numerous tombs of well known Italian figures such as Giuseppe Mazzini, whose ideas helped set the way to a unified Italy.
- Cimitero Acattolico: Rome’s non-Catholic cemetery is an quiet refugee set beyond a busy intersection. Between the imposing pyramid of Cestius and the striking gravestones surrounded by greenery, it is a cemetery you are likely to want to spend a lot of time in. The most famous graves belong to the English writers Keats and Shelley.
- Cimitero Monumentale: a real jewel in Milan. Just as the cemetery in Genova, it has a museum-like quality, characterized by interesting architecture and famous names of people resting in peace among monuments and trees. One above all, Alessandro Manzoni. If you are you in Milan don’t miss the chance: visit Cimitero Monumentale with Lookals.
- Camposanto di Pisa: when in Pisa, don’t assume the leaning tower is the main event worth visiting! Legend has it that a body buried in the ground of this historic cemetery in Piazza Duomo will rot within 24 hours of being placed in the ‘holy field’.
There is so much more to life in Bel Paese — death for instance
Many thanks to Chiara for the brilliant idea for this post!
13 thoughts on “6 Italian cemeteries you need to see before you die”
Ciao, I would suggest also the Cimitero di Parabita in Puglia. As I live here, I know my area and this one is one of the best in Italy in terms of architecture. It’s a nice off the beaten path! Ciao a tutti, Fabio!
Interesting! Thank you for the suggestion – I did not know about cimitero di parabita
Good call on Fontanelle – I visited recently and wrote about the cemetery (and the purgatory cult) on my blog: https://gothoutorome.wordpress.com/2016/10/05/praying-to-skulls-the-cimitero-delle-fontanelle-in-naples/
I love the Protestant Cemetery in Rome too. It’s sort of the reason I chose to live in Testaccio, as strange as that may sound!
Oh! Fantastic 🙂 What a great reason to pick a neighborhood.
I love the Protestant Cemetery as well. When I am in Rome, usually for a month in the winter, I would go there at least two or three times. LOL!!!
My husband and I frequently explore cemeteries in Italy. It’s especially interesting when you are in the village of your grandparents and great-grandparents. There was quite a shift in cemeteries at the turn of the 20th century. Twice we have encountered situations where the graves outside of the village were exhumed and the remains put together in a communal grave inside the “new” cemetery which was built surrounded by walls and which has the bodies in (mostly) above ground “niches”.
Hi Bonnie! I have seen these cemeteries but I thought that they were simply new rather than exhumed and re-built! Interesting.
The Protestant (or foreigners’) Cemetery in Rome is amazing as well. It contains the beautiful original “Angel of Grief” and the burial sites of Keats and Shelley. It is gorgeous.
Absolutely agree! We have it listed as “Cimitero Acattolico” on the list above 🙂
I love cemeteries!!! Here is a video I made in the cimitero acattolico. Music is mine … from “Stabat Mater.”
Thank you for sharing!
I love Italian cemeteries, whereas British churchyards used to give me the creeps oddly! Two others of note are Chiavari (just down the road from Genova) which is huge and built back into the hillside. If we move to Chiavari I might end up there!!
And also the cemetery with the best view has to go to Portovenere which clings to the cliffside and is guarded by seagulls with attitude as the waves break on the rocks below. And where (because it is so ‘popular’ and space is at such a premium, that I understand you now have to have been born there, not just be resident. Happy to be corrected on that bar gossip though. 🙂
The Rome War Cemetery, just around the corner from the Protestant Cemetery, is tiny but quite elegant and beautiful in its own right. Every time I am there I feel a sense of peace and tranquility. Definitely worth visiting if you are in Testaccio.