Duane McLaughlin

Exploring Passetto di Borgo

Uncover the secrets of Passetto di Borgo in Vatican City, an intriguing pathway with a storied past.

Attraction Vatican City
Passetto di Borgo pathway in Vatican City


Passetto di Borgo is a hidden gem in Rome that connects the Vatican City with Castel Sant'Angelo. It was used by the popes as an escape route in times of danger, and it witnessed many historical events and legends. In this article, you will learn more about the history, the architecture, and the secrets of this fascinating corridor.

Setting Expectations: Downsides and Time Considerations

Passetto di Borgo is not always open to the public, so you need to check the availability and book your tickets in advance. The corridor is about 800 meters long, and it takes about 40 minutes to walk through it. There are no restrooms or water fountains along the way, so make sure you are prepared before you enter. The corridor is also dark and narrow, so it may not be suitable for claustrophobic or anxious people.

Tips for your visit of Passetto di Borgo

  • Wear comfortable shoes: The corridor is paved with cobblestones and has some stairs, so you need to wear shoes that are suitable for walking.
  • Bring a flashlight: The corridor is dimly lit, and some parts are completely dark. A flashlight will help you see better and avoid tripping over obstacles.

You can also combine your visit of Passetto di Borgo with other nearby attractions, such as Castel Sant'Angelo, St. Peter's Basilica, and the Vatican Museums. They are all within walking distance from each other, and they offer a rich cultural and artistic experience.

Practical Information

Opening Hours: Passetto di Borgo is open from April to October, on Saturdays and Sundays, from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. The last entry is at 5:00 pm.

How to Get There: You can reach Passetto di Borgo by metro, bus, or tram. The nearest metro station is Ottaviano (line A), which is about 15 minutes away by foot. The nearest bus stop is Piazza Risorgimento (lines 23, 32, 49, 81, 492, 590), which is about 10 minutes away by foot. The nearest tram stop is Piazza del Risorgimento (line 19), which is about 10 minutes away by foot.

Price: The ticket for Passetto di Borgo costs 8 euros per person. You can buy it online on the official website or at the ticket office of Castel Sant'Angelo.

Crowds: Passetto di Borgo is not very crowded, as it is only open on weekends and for a limited number of visitors. However, you may encounter some queues at the entrance or at the security check.

Weather Considerations: Passetto di Borgo is an indoor attraction, so it is not affected by the weather conditions. However, you may want to avoid visiting it on very hot or rainy days, as the corridor can get stuffy or humid.

Photography: You are allowed to take photos inside Passetto di Borgo, but you are not allowed to use flash or tripod. You can also take photos of the exterior of the corridor from different angles and perspectives.

Accessibility: Passetto di Borgo is not accessible for people with disabilities or reduced mobility, as there are no elevators or ramps. The corridor also has some steps and uneven surfaces that may pose difficulties for wheelchairs or strollers.

Facilities: There are no facilities inside Passetto di Borgo, such as restrooms, water fountains, lockers, or souvenir shops. You can find these facilities at Castel Sant'Angelo or at the nearby cafes and restaurants.

Tours: You can visit Passetto di Borgo on your own or with a guided tour. The guided tours are available in Italian, English, Spanish, and French, and they last about an hour. They cost 12 euros per person, and they include the entrance fee and the audio guide. You can book your tour online on the official website or at the ticket office of Castel Sant'Angelo.

Bringing Children: Passetto di Borgo is a child-friendly attraction, as it is fun and educational for kids of all ages. They can learn about the history and the legends of the corridor, and they can imagine being popes or soldiers escaping from enemies. However, you may want to supervise them closely, as the corridor is dark and narrow, and it may have some hazards.

Bringing Pets: Passetto di Borgo is not pet-friendly, as pets are not allowed inside the corridor. You can leave your pets at a nearby pet-sitting service or at your hotel.

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

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is Passetto di Borgo?

    Passetto di Borgo is a secret passage that connects the Vatican City with the Castel Sant'Angelo. It was built in 1277 by Pope Nicholas III and was used by several popes to escape from danger or to reach the castle in times of war.

  • How can I visit Passetto di Borgo?

    Passetto di Borgo is not open to the public all year round, but only on special occasions or by booking a guided tour. You can check the availability and prices on the official website of the Castel Sant'Angelo or on other online platforms.

  • What can I see along Passetto di Borgo?

    Passetto di Borgo is about 800 meters long and offers a unique perspective on the history and architecture of Rome. Along the way, you can see the remains of ancient walls, towers, gates, and fortifications, as well as some frescoes and inscriptions that date back to the Renaissance.

  • Is Passetto di Borgo accessible for people with disabilities?

    Passetto di Borgo is not fully accessible for people with disabilities, as there are some stairs and narrow passages that may pose difficulties. However, there are some sections that are wheelchair-friendly and have ramps and elevators. You can contact the staff of the Castel Sant'Angelo for more information.

Must see

  • The entrance of Passetto di Borgo

    The entrance of Passetto di Borgo is located near the Vatican Museums, behind a small door that is often overlooked by tourists. It is marked by a plaque that reads "Passetto di Borgo" and a coat of arms of Pope Alexander VI, who restored the passage in 1492.

  • The Torre Borgia

    The Torre Borgia is one of the most impressive towers along Passetto di Borgo. It was built by Pope Alexander VI as a defensive bastion and a residence for his family. It has four floors and a terrace that offers a panoramic view of the city. Inside, you can admire some frescoes by Pinturicchio and his school.

  • The Porta Castello

    The Porta Castello is the gate that connects Passetto di Borgo with the Castel Sant'Angelo. It was built in 1564 by Pope Pius IV and has a monumental arch decorated with statues of saints Peter and Paul. Above the gate, you can see the papal apartments where the popes used to stay when they reached the castle.

  • The Castel Sant'Angelo

    The Castel Sant'Angelo is the final destination of Passetto di Borgo. It was originally built as a mausoleum for Emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century AD, but later transformed into a fortress, a prison, and a museum. It has many rooms and galleries that display artworks, weapons, furniture, and relics from different periods of history. It also has a rooftop terrace that offers a stunning view of Rome and the Vatican.

Lesser known stories and Interesting Facts

  • The Passetto was built by Pope Nicholas III in 1277

    The Passetto di Borgo is an elevated passage that links the Vatican City with the Castel Sant'Angelo. It was erected in 1277 by Pope Nicholas III, who wanted to have a safe and direct access to the castle in case of danger. The Passetto is about 800 meters long and runs along the top of the Vatican wall.

  • The Passetto was used by Pope Alexander VI to escape the French invasion in 1494

    Pope Alexander VI, also known as Rodrigo Borgia, was one of the most controversial and powerful popes of the Renaissance. He faced many enemies, including the French king Charles VIII, who invaded Italy in 1494. When the French army reached Rome, Alexander VI fled to the Castel Sant'Angelo through the Passetto, where he remained until the French withdrew.

  • The Passetto was the scene of a heroic sacrifice by the Swiss Guard in 1527

    In 1527, Rome was sacked by the troops of Emperor Charles V, who were mostly German and Spanish mercenaries. The pope at the time, Clement VII, was a member of the Medici family and an ally of France, which made him an enemy of Charles V. As the invaders entered the city, Clement VII escaped to the Castel Sant'Angelo through the Passetto, escorted by his Swiss Guard. The Swiss Guard fought bravely on the steps of St. Peter's Basilica, sacrificing their lives to protect the pope. Out of 189 Swiss Guards, only 42 survived.

  • The Passetto was a secret passage for lovers and spies

    The Passetto was not only used for emergencies, but also for more mundane or scandalous purposes. According to some sources, Pope Alexander VI used it to visit his mistress, Giulia Farnese, who lived near the Castel Sant'Angelo. Other popes used it to spy on their enemies or to receive confidential messages. The Passetto was also a hiding place for valuable objects and documents.

  • The Passetto inspired many works of art and fiction

    The Passetto has fascinated many artists and writers over the centuries. It appears in paintings by Raphael and Caravaggio, in operas by Puccini and Verdi, and in novels by Dumas and Eco. It also features prominently in Dan Brown's bestseller Angels & Demons, where it is the setting of a dramatic chase between Robert Langdon and an assassin.

Historical Background

The Passetto di Borgo is part of the complex of fortifications that surrounded the Vatican City since ancient times. The first wall was built by Emperor Aurelian in the 3rd century AD, to protect Rome from barbarian invasions. The wall was later restored and enlarged by several popes, especially Leo IV in the 9th century and Urban VIII in the 17th century.

The Castel Sant'Angelo, also known as the Mausoleum of Hadrian, was originally built as a tomb for Emperor Hadrian and his family in the 2nd century AD. It was later converted into a fortress by the popes, who added towers, bastions, and a moat. The castle was connected to the Vatican by a covered bridge, which was replaced by the Passetto in 1277.

The Passetto di Borgo witnessed many historical events and changes over the centuries. It was damaged by earthquakes, fires, and wars. It was closed and reopened several times, depending on the security situation and the political will of the popes. It was renovated and restored in 2000 for the Jubilee year, and it is now open to visitors for a limited time each summer.

Nearby Restaurants

  • da Roberto al Passetto di Borgo A traditional Roman restaurant that offers local specialties such as pasta alla carbonara, saltimbocca alla romana, and tiramisu. It is located near the entrance of the Passetto on Borgo Pio street.
  • La Veranda A refined restaurant that serves Mediterranean cuisine with a modern twist. It is located inside the Hotel Columbus, which was once a palace owned by the Medici family. It has a beautiful terrace overlooking the Vatican gardens.
  • Pizza Zizza A cozy pizzeria that offers a variety of pizzas, salads, and desserts. It is located on Borgo Angelico street, near the exit of the Passetto on the side of the Castel Sant'Angelo.

Nearby Attractions

  • St. Peter's Basilica The largest and most famous church in the world, built on the site where St. Peter, the first pope, was martyred. It is a masterpiece of Renaissance and Baroque architecture, decorated with works by Michelangelo, Bernini, and other artists.
  • Vatican Museums One of the largest and most visited museums in the world, containing a vast collection of art and history from different cultures and periods. It includes the Sistine Chapel, where the popes are elected, and the Raphael Rooms, where the Passetto can be seen in one of the frescoes.
  • Castel Sant'Angelo The ancient mausoleum turned fortress that served as a refuge for the popes in times of danger. It has a rich history and a stunning view of Rome from its terrace. It also houses a museum that displays weapons, paintings, and sculptures.


The Passetto di Borgo is more than just a secret passage. It is a witness of the history and culture of Rome and the Vatican. It is a symbol of the power and vulnerability of the popes. It is a source of inspiration and curiosity for artists and travelers. If you have the chance to visit it, you will discover a hidden treasure that will enrich your experience of Rome.