Tucked away in the southern part of Rome is one of my favorite under-appreciated spots. In the happening neighborhood of Testaccio, just a few minutes’ walk from the Piramide station is the Protestant Cemetery, home of Keats and Shelley’s graves.
Officially it is called the Cimitero Acattolico (the non-Catholic cemetery), hence why even professed athiests can be found in its walls. The conditions to be buried are three:
- You are not Catholic
- You belong to one of the 14 countries (which includes the U.S. and does not include Italy) that manages the cemetery
- You are residing in Italy at the time of your death
Of course. this being Italy, personal connections trump all – if you have a family member buried in the cemetery, you can snag a spot even if you are a Catholic Italian.
Because of the neighboring cat sanctuary, feline custodians lounge and saunter between the the tombstones. There is a landscaped area with benches perfect for picnicking (perhaps with cheeses or take-out from nearby Volpetti). In addition to Keats and Shelley, Italian political philosopher Antonio Gramsci is buried here. Located to the right of the entrance, Gramsci’s grave typically has the most interesting mementoes with everything from bus tickets to communist manifestoes left in tribute.
If you’re in the neighborhood, the Cemetery is a shady oasis from the chaos of Rome sight-seeing.
The Protestant Cemetery is open Monday – Saturday, 9 AM – 5 PM, Sunday 9 AM – 1PM. Last entrance 30 minutes before closing. Suggested donation: 2 euros. Via Caio Cestio 6. Accessible from Piramide metro stop (line B) or buses 3, 75, 23, 60, 95, 280, 30 and 175. Tel. +39.06.574.1900. http://www.cemeteryrome.it