Campo de’ Fiori is probably one of the most visited sites in all of Rome. The must-see market still has some traditional stalls, but the outdoor space is slowly being taken over by souvenir sellers and food stands hawking fake truffle spread.
In the center of all this hubbub, there is a tiny secret passageway full of frescoes only about a 30-second walk from the market: Passetto del Biscione.
The easiest way to find it is to first go to Piazza del Biscione. As you are standing and looking at the piazza this way, the entrance will be in the back to the far right.
Pretty inviting, no?
But trust me and keep walking through. (The gate is normally open during daylight hours).
The passageway (passetto) is found in a part of Rome with a very long history. This area around Campo de’ Fiori is where the Theater of Pompey stood during Ancient Roman times. In fact, the restaurant at the entrance to this little tunnel is built into the theater itself and you can still see the ruins if you go into their basement dining room.
However, the frescoed design of the walkway and the icon of the Madonna are more thanks to the noble Orsini family.
The Orsinis built their palazzo on top of the Theater of Pompey and they were not the only ones making use of the ruins for construction material. In the 14th century, the church of Santa Maria in Grottapinta was created inside one of the annexes of the old theater. This church was later connected to the Orsini Palace.
This passage way would have lead from the piazza in front of the Orsini home towards the church.
In the 1700s, a sacred painting of the Madonna is said to have been the site of a miracle, when she opened her eyes and looked around.
The original painting has since been moved for safe keeping, but there is still a shrine inside the passetto.
The frescoes were restored in 2014, and the passage is a charming little stop when you are in central Rome.
Still not sure how to find it? Passetto del Biscione connects Piazza del Biscione with Via di Grottapinta.
If you are looking for more quiet corners in the same area, be sure to wander down to Arco degli Acetari as well.