Traditionally Italians don’t celebrate Halloween—and when I moved here nearly ten years ago the only place you could go to see people dressed in costumes was to Campo dei Fiori at night, where American students still go out. But over the years Halloween has increasingly become part of what Italians do. Where costumes were once only worn by a visiting handful, now Italian children roam the streets (with their parents!) to gather sweets, calling dolcetto o scherzetto, dressed as witches or devils, and adults have plenty of options for going out.
It seems like Halloween in Italy is here to stay, and if you’re in the Eternal City this October 31, here are some things you can do to get in the spooky spirit. And remember, November 1 is a holiday, All Saints’ Day, which makes going out Halloween night that much easier.In the Capuchin Crypt…
During the Day
Considering Rome’s long and varied history, there is plenty to do during the day to turn the spooks on.
Crypt of the Capuchin Monks
Take one step into this crypt and you’ll see why it’s first on the list. Located below Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini and right off the Barbarini metro A stop, this is the crypt to top all spooky crypts. Walk along the chapels to see light fixtures made from spinal cords and floors made from femurs and many more bone oddities. The reasoning behind all these bones goes that the soil is from Jerusalem and was the hot spot for the monks to be buried. Of course, those dying always outnumbered the square feet of soil, and so those previously buried were dug up to make way for the new bodies. And what better use of bones than as decoration!
Frescoes in Santo Stefano Rotondo
For some frightening scenes to liven up your nightmares, head to Santo Stefano Rotondo where the 16th-century frescoes there depict every kind of saintly torture you can and can’t imagine. Charles Dickens claimed these frescoes were the most grotesque he had ever seen.
Because Ancient Roman law forbade burying dead within the city’s walls, the Christians began burying people outside of them. Most of the Christian’s catacombs are located on the Via Appia Antica, where there are plenty to choose from. A good one to visit is the Catacombs of Domitilla, where you can also see some 2nd-century frescoes. Or there are the Catacombs of Priscilla on the Via Salaria where besides the tombs upon tombs you can some more restored frescoes unveiled last year by the Vatican.
If you’re looking for something to do with kids, and that lasts all Halloween weekend, try ZooHalloween where there will be a Museum of Frights, a night tour of the Zoology Museum for 9 to 12 year olds. And for younger kids there will be a Museum of Chills with games and workshops. For more information see: museodizoologia.it
During the Night
Are you in Rome for Halloween and in need of a costume? I would suggest heading to a small shop off Via Ostilia near the Colosseum, between Divin Ostilia wine bar and the Issimo grocery shop on the corner. This used clothing shop doesn’t have a name, but has lots of clothes hanging outside to advertise itself. Walk down the stairs for a huge selection of used, cheap and strange clothes.
The pubs in Rome are as good a place as any to celebrate Halloween because they can be counted on to get into the spirit with decorations and themes. Pubs are also the place to go if you’re looking for an international crowd. If you’re near Monti, try Finnegan’s (Via Leonina, 66) or Fiddler’s Elbow (Via dell’Olmata, 43) on the other side of Santa Maria Maggiore. If you’re in the center near Piazza Navona, Abbey Theatre (Via del Governo Vecchio, 51) is a great place to grab a drink, or more.
A few good bars for Halloween parties are Micca Club and Circolo degli Artisti. At Micca Club there will be The Night of the Divine Marchesa where the dress code ranges from 20s flappers to duchess zombies. Performances and music will fill out the night (Via degli Avignonesi; miccaclub.com). This year Cicolo degli Artisti is bringing back its Santa Muerte Halloween Party where there will be DJ sets and discounts for those who come dressed up. And if you don’t come dressed, there will be a make-up corner will help you out (Via Casilina Vecchia, 42; circoloartisti.it).
My favorite thing to do on Halloween night in Rome is to wander through the different piazzas, stopping for a drink and watching the costumes parade by. Usually it’s not that cold yet and so it’s also a great last chance to enjoy standing around outside. A few piazzas that are always good at night (and especially on Halloween) are Piazza Madonna dei Monti in Monti and Piazza San Calisto in Trastevere.