Nestled in a corner of the park in Piazza Vittorio, the door flanked by two stone dwarves is all that remains of the 17th-century villa of Marquis Massimiliano Palombara. He’s said to have covered the door in esoteric writings left behind by an alchemist who vanished in the night after turning a herb into gold.
Miraculous well in the church of S. Maria in Via Lata
Via del Corso 306
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‘Little Lourdes’, or the chapel of Madonna del Pozzo, is inside this church on the left. Once the location of a cardinal’s stables, this well overflowed in the 13th century, nearly carrying away a painting on stone of the Virgin Mary, which the cardinal rescued and enshrined. Visitors can drink the water.
Via Giulia 1
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Francesco Borromini is the likely author behind the alchemical symbols that mark Palazzo Falconieri. The name means ‘falconers’, hence the falcon motif inside and outside. Today the building hosts the Hungarian Academy.
The scar of Roland's sword
Vicolo della Spada d’Orlando
Head down this small street off the Pantheon with your eyes peeled at ankle level, and you’ll find a marble stump with a conspicuous split down one side. Legend has it that Roland, Charlemagne’s chief Paladin, slashed his indestructible sword Durendal against it while fending off a group of Roman knights.
Corner of Via dei Querceti
and Via Santi Quattro Coronati
Here stands a neglected oratory with a poorly preserved painting. While certainly a classic rendition of the Madonna with Child, the story goes that it’s actually a depiction of the apocryphal Pope Joan, the 9th-century ‘Papessa’ who masqueraded as a man, fell in love with a cardinal, and gave birth in the middle of the street during a procession.