Giuseppe Conte

Exploring Alley del Biscione

Journey through the charming Alley del Biscione in Rome's Centro Storico, a hidden gem rich in history and culture.

Attraction Centro Storico
Historic Alley del Biscione in Rome


Alley del Biscione is a hidden gem in the heart of Rome, where you can find a mix of history, art, and culture. This narrow street, named after the snake-like shape of its pavement, is home to some of the most charming and authentic attractions in the city. In this article, you will discover what makes Alley del Biscione so special, and how to make the most of your visit.

Setting Expectations: Downsides and Time Considerations

Alley del Biscione is not a typical tourist destination, so don't expect to find many signs or information boards along the way. 

Tips for your visit of Alley del Biscione

  • Wear comfortable shoes: The street is paved with cobblestones, which can be slippery and uneven. You will also need to walk up and down some stairs and slopes along the way.
  • Bring some cash: There are many shops, cafes, and restaurants along Alley del Biscione, where you can buy souvenirs, snacks, or drinks. However, not all of them accept credit cards or have ATMs nearby.

Another tip for your visit is to keep an eye out for the street art that adorns some of the walls and doors along Alley del Biscione. You will find colorful murals, graffiti, and stickers that reflect the artistic and creative spirit of the area. Some of them are made by famous artists, such as Alice Pasquini or Blu.

Practical Information

Opening Hours: Alley del Biscione is open 24/7, but some of the attractions may have different schedules. For example, the Church of Santa Maria in Grottapinta is only open on Saturdays from 10 am to 12 pm.

How to Get There: The easiest way to get to Alley del Biscione is by public transportation. You can take bus number 64 or 40 from Termini station, or bus number 46 or 916 from Vatican City, and get off at Corso Vittorio Emanuele II. From there, it's a short walk to the entrance of the street.

Price: There is no admission fee to enter Alley del Biscione or any of its attractions.

Crowds: Alley del Biscione can get very busy and noisy during peak hours, especially on weekends and holidays. If you want to avoid the crowds, try to visit early in the morning or late in the afternoon.

Weather Considerations: Alley del Biscione is suitable for visiting all year round, but you may want to check the weather forecast before you go. In summer, it can get very hot and humid, so bring a hat, sunscreen, and water. In winter, it can get very cold and rainy, so bring a jacket, umbrella, and gloves.

Photography: Alley del Biscione is a great place to take photos, as it offers many scenic and artistic views. However, you may need to ask for permission before taking photos inside some of the attractions, such as the churches or the theaters.

Accessibility: Alley del Biscione is not very accessible for people with mobility issues, as it has many cobblestones, stairs, and slopes. There are also no ramps or elevators available. If you need assistance, you may want to contact the local authorities or the tourist office in advance.

Facilities: There are no public restrooms or drinking fountains along Alley del Biscione. However, you can find some nearby, such as in Campo de' Fiori or Piazza Navona. You can also use the facilities of some of the cafes or restaurants along the way, but you may need to buy something first.

Tours: There are several tours available that can take you around Alley del Biscione and show you its highlights and secrets. You can choose from different options, such as walking tours, bike tours, or audio tours. You can book them online or on-site.

Bringing Children: Alley del Biscione is a fun and educational place to bring children, as they can learn about the history, culture, and art of Rome. However, you may need to keep an eye on them, as the street can be crowded and noisy. You may also want to bring some snacks and toys to keep them entertained.

Bringing Pets: Alley del Biscione is pet-friendly, as long as you keep your pets on a leash and clean up after them. However, some of the attractions may not allow pets inside, such as the churches or the theaters. You may also want to bring some water and treats for your pets.

These details are subject to change; please check the official website for the latest information

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is Alley del Biscione?

    Alley del Biscione is a narrow street in the historic center of Rome, near Campo de' Fiori. It is named after the biscione, a heraldic symbol of the House of Sforza, who owned a palace in the area.

  • Why is Alley del Biscione worth visiting?

    Alley del Biscione is a hidden gem that offers a glimpse of the authentic Roman life. It is full of charming shops, cafes, restaurants, and art galleries, where you can enjoy the local cuisine, culture, and atmosphere.

  • How to get to Alley del Biscione?

    Alley del Biscione is easily accessible by public transportation. You can take the bus number 64 or 46 from Termini station or the tram number 8 from Trastevere station and get off at Largo Argentina. From there, it is a short walk to the alley.

  • When is the best time to visit Alley del Biscione?

    The best time to visit Alley del Biscione is in the morning or in the evening, when the street is less crowded and more lively. You can also visit it during the day, but be prepared for some noise and traffic.

Must see

  • Piazza Farnese

    Piazza Farnese is a beautiful square that hosts the Farnese Palace, one of the most impressive Renaissance buildings in Rome. The palace was designed by Michelangelo and houses the French embassy. The square also features two elegant fountains and a lovely view of the dome of Sant'Andrea della Valle.

  • Mercato di Campo de' Fiori

    Mercato di Campo de' Fiori is a lively market that takes place every morning in the nearby square of Campo de' Fiori. It is one of the oldest and most colorful markets in Rome, where you can find fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers, spices, cheese, bread, and more. It is also a great place to taste some local specialties and mingle with the locals.

  • Galleria Spada

    Galleria Spada is a small but fascinating art gallery that displays the collection of Cardinal Bernardino Spada. It includes paintings by Caravaggio, Guido Reni, Guercino, Domenichino, and other masters of the 16th and 17th centuries. The gallery also features a curious optical illusion created by Francesco Borromini, who designed a false perspective corridor that seems much longer than it really is.

  • Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere

    Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere is one of the oldest and most beautiful churches in Rome. It dates back to the 4th century and has a stunning mosaic facade and interior. The church is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and contains many relics and artworks related to her cult. It is also a popular spot for weddings and concerts.

Additional tips or recommendations for visitors: If you want to explore more of Alley del Biscione and its surroundings, you can join one of the guided tours or walking tours that are available online or at the tourist information centers. You can also rent a bike or a scooter and discover the area at your own pace. Don't forget to bring your camera and capture some memorable moments in this charming corner of Rome.

Lesser known stories and Interesting Facts

  • The miracle of the moving eyes

    In 1796, the painting of the Madonna in the Passetto del Biscione was said to have moved its eyes, attracting crowds of devotees and curious people. The event inspired the expression "to look for Mary around Rome" to indicate something hard to find yet very near.

  • The eel of the Orsini

    The name of the Passetto del Biscione comes from the heraldic symbol of the Orsini family, who owned the palace built over the ruins of the Theatre of Pompey. The symbol was an eel, or biscione in Italian, which can still be seen on some buildings in the area.

  • The Theatre of Pompey

    The Passetto del Biscione is part of the ancient Theatre of Pompey, the first permanent theatre in Rome, built in the 1st century BC. The theatre could host up to 30,000 spectators and was also the site of Julius Caesar's assassination in 44 BC .

  • The hidden frescoes

    The Passetto del Biscione was restored in 2015 by a team financed by the Orsini Chapel Study Centre. The beautiful frescoes with cherubs and festoons were painted according to surviving illustrations and drawings. The original painting of the Madonna by Scipione Pulzone is still there .

  • The secret passage

    The Passetto del Biscione is a hidden gem that many tourists miss. It is a short tunnel that connects Piazza del Biscione with Via di Grottapinta, near Campo de' Fiori. It is a quiet and peaceful spot in contrast with the busy market nearby.

Historical Background

The Passetto del Biscione has a long and fascinating history that spans from ancient Rome to modern times. It is a witness of the changes and transformations that have shaped this area of the city over the centuries.

The Passetto del Biscione was originally part of the Theatre of Pompey, a monumental structure that was inaugurated in 55 BC by Pompey the Great, one of Rome's most influential generals and politicians. The theatre was not only a place for entertainment, but also a political and religious center. It had a large portico with statues, gardens, temples, and a curia, or senate house, where Julius Caesar was stabbed to death by Brutus and Cassius on March 15th, 44 BC.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, the theatre fell into decay and was gradually dismantled and reused for other purposes. In the Middle Ages, it became a residential area with houses, churches, and towers. One of these churches was San Salvatore in Arco, which occupied the space now known as Passetto del Biscione. The church was dedicated to St. Salvatore, or Savior, because it was believed that he had saved Rome from a plague in 680 AD.

In the 16th century, the area was acquired by the Orsini family, one of the most powerful and influential noble families in Rome. They built their palace over the remains of the theatre and transformed San Salvatore in Arco into their private chapel. They also decorated it with frescoes and commissioned a painting of the Madonna by Scipione Pulzone, a famous painter of his time. The chapel was named Santa Maria in Grotta Pinta, or St. Mary in the Painted Cave.

In 1796, a miraculous event occurred in the chapel. The painting of the Madonna was said to have moved its eyes, attracting crowds of people who wanted to see the wonder. The phenomenon lasted for several days and was interpreted as a sign of divine protection for Rome during the turbulent times of the French invasion. The miracle also inspired a popular saying: "to look for Mary around Rome", meaning to search for something that is hard to find yet very near.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, the Passetto del Biscione was neglected and abandoned. It was used as a storage place, a garbage dump, and a shelter for homeless people. It was also damaged by vandalism and graffiti. In 2015, thanks to the initiative of the Orsini Chapel Study Centre, the Passetto del Biscione was restored to its former glory. The frescoes were cleaned and repainted, the painting of the Madonna was preserved, and the passage was reopened to the public.

Nearby Restaurants

  • La Carbonara A traditional Roman trattoria that serves classic dishes such as carbonara, amatriciana, and cacio e pepe. The pasta is homemade and the portions are generous. The restaurant is cozy and friendly, with wooden tables and checkered tablecloths.
  • Da Pancrazio A historic restaurant that occupies part of the ancient Theatre of Pompey. The dining rooms are located under the vaults and arches of the theatre, creating a unique atmosphere. The menu offers a variety of Roman and Italian specialties, such as saltimbocca, veal scaloppine, and tiramisu.
  • Pizzeria Baffetto A popular pizzeria that serves thin and crispy pizzas with various toppings. The place is always crowded and lively, with people waiting in line outside. The service is fast and efficient, and the prices are reasonable.

Nearby Attractions

  • Campo de' Fiori A lively square that hosts a daily market of fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers, and local products. The square is also surrounded by bars, cafes, and restaurants where you can enjoy a drink or a meal. At night, the square becomes a meeting point for young people and tourists.
  • Piazza Navona One of the most beautiful and famous squares in Rome, with its three magnificent fountains by Bernini and Borromini. The square is also home to the Church of Sant'Agnese in Agone, the Palazzo Pamphilj, and the Museo di Roma. The square is always full of artists, performers, and visitors.
  • Pantheon A stunning ancient temple that was converted into a church in the 7th century. The Pantheon is famous for its dome, which is the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world. The Pantheon also contains the tombs of several important figures, such as Raphael, Victor Emmanuel II, and Umberto I.


Exploring Passetto del Biscione is a great way to discover a hidden treasure in Rome. The passage offers a glimpse into the history, art, and culture of this fascinating city. It is also a perfect starting point to visit other nearby attractions, such as Campo de' Fiori, Piazza Navona, and the Pantheon. If you are looking for a unique and unexpected experience in Rome, don't miss Passetto del Biscione!