Thursday, July 18, 2013
By Sarah Murphy - Perhaps the most glamorous ghost is that which holds her own head as she wanders around, a ghost much popularized in media and art, and for good reason—while she may not have a good head on her shoulders, she’s at least carrying one.
The list of decapitated Romans is long—the eldest son of Pompey the Great, personally executed by Julius Cesar, or Gaius Trebonius, whose head was kicked like a football by soldiers of Publius Cornelius Doabella.
Rome is home to many such ghosts, most prolifically, Beatrice Cenci. Cenci was beheaded at the end of the 16th century after accusations that she’d murdered (she had) her abusive and incestuous father. With a sword, her head was removed. Now, Beatrice appears every year between September 10th and September 11th at the Castel Sant’ Angelo. Every year, she’s carrying her head.
On Rome’s Muro Torto (meaning askew wall and acting as a supporting structure behind the Pincian hill) two revolutionaries (Carbonari) were arrested and beheaded in the 19th century. Rumor has it that their ghosts (from their severed heads) still offer lottery numbers to those who will listen.
It is no secret that Rome is home to many things supernatural, superhuman, super awesome. What may come as a surprise, however, is that there exists an opportunity to tour Rome in a way that exemplifies and amplifies the beautiful and tragic history of the place. Many companies are specializing in tours geared toward the darker impulses within us all. By viewing places like the Non-Catholic Cemetery or the Catacombs, you explore what is perhaps the most real part of any city.
There are some cities born to house ghosts—cities whose buildings, no matter the age, look weathered and ancient. Cities immortalized in movies and books, travel blogs and blurry Polaroid’s. Rome is of course no exception—a city steeped in history and beauty and haunting.
Sarah Murphy has worked in Dublin for the last two years as a blogger, web content manager and marketing coordinator. A journalist by training and traveler by nature, she frequently travels to Italy for the business and pleasure of Touring Florence, where she mostly spends her time scavenging the ruins or gallivanting across the countryside.