Visiting cemeteries in Rome may not be what you had in mind when you planned your trip here, especially if it’s your first visit.
But Rome has some special, beautiful cemeteries, and they offer a place for peace and quiet, reflection, and often, just a lovely and unusual site to see.
Being Rome, of course we have a lot of really famous ancient tombs, like the tomb of Saint Peter, the tomb of the baker (pictured below), and the tomb of Gaius Cestius, also known as the pyramid (see below.)
There are also two enormous imperial mausoleums – Augustus’ mausoleum, and Hadrian’s mausoleum, today known as Castel Sant’Angelo.
And aside from famous ancient tombs, Rome boasts miles and miles (or kilometers and kilometers) of catacombs – underground burial sites for the dead of Ancient Rome.
And let’s not forget everyone’s favorite crypt in Rome – the Cappuchin Crypt (museo cappuccini), decorated with the bones of thousands of monks from 17th century.
For this page, I want to share with you the most interesting contemporary cemeteries in Rome.
They can be beautiful places to enjoy some quiet time, and to see something a bit unusual and off the beaten track.
I’ve visited them all and trust me, each one deserves a closer look.
This is not by any means a list of all the cemeteries in Rome, but they are the ones I think you will find most fascinating to visit.
This cemetery is nicknamed the Protestant Cemetery or the Englishmen’s Cemetery in Rome, but it’s more officially known as the non-Catholic Cemetery in Rome, (Cimitero Acatolico in Italian.)
None of these monikers is entirely correct.
The cemetery does contain the graves of many non-Catholic Englishmen, but there are also graves of people of all different faiths and nationalities.
The bottom line is that it’s a simply beautiful cemetery with a lot of famous residents and beautiful tombs.
Why does Rome have a cemetery for non-Catholics? And why is there a pyramid inside it?
The pyramid is an Egyptian style tomb built by a wealthy Roman name Caius Cestius around 12 - 18 BCE. It later became incorporated into the Aurelian Walls in the 3rd century.
So, it’s just chance that this ancient tomb happens to seem to be part of this more contemporary cemetery. It's even possible to visit the pyramid.
Pope Clement XI (1700 – 1721) donated the land in 1716, presumably to give “non-believers” a place to be properly buried since they could not be buried in cemeteries in Rome that were for Catholics only. This was the beginning of the era of "the Grand Tour", and many people were visiting Rome from other countries and if they died in Rome, would need a place of burial.
The first known burial here was in 1738. A young student from Oxford had died after falling from his horse. As a non-Catholic foreigner, he was buried at the edge of the city walls.
Other non-Catholic foreigners who died in Rome were soon buried there as well, and the area became a de facto cemetery. With over 4,000 graves, it is still in use today.
I think of this as a beautiful place to wander, very slowly, and absorb all the beauty around me.
There is an official cat colony inside this cemetery, so you will often see them wandering about the grounds.
The cats are well cared for so they are serene, adding to the sense of languor.
On the other hand, it’s not so easy to just stroll aimlessly.
The beautiful, sometimes extremely artistic and expressive tombs will draw your eye towards them, and it’s impossible not to be moved by some of the beautiful dedications.
Perhaps the two most famous residents of this cemetery are the romantic English poets John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley.
Keats was 25 when he died of tuberculosis in Rome in 1821. (You can visit his house next to the Spanish Steps.)
Shelley was 29 when he drowned in 1822 in a sailing accident off the Italian Riviera.
Several years before he died, Shelley had written this about the cemetery:
"It might make one in love with death, to think that one should be buried in so sweet a place."
Shelley was married to another famous author, Mary Shelley.
While she is not buried in the cemetery, their 3-year old son William, who died at age 3 of malaria, is buried here.
Other famous burials include Antonio Gramsci (founder of the Italian Communist party), Goethe's son, Gregory Corso /Beat poet), and, most recently, one of my favorite authors, Andrea Camilleri.
You can read about some of the notable people buried here on their website.
While I love a quiet stroll here, I've also taken a tour and that is definitely worthwhile.
While the non-Catholic cemetery in Rome is fairly well-known, not many people know of the smaller cemetery only a few meters away.
One of several war memorial cemeteries in Rome, the Rome War Cemetery was begun during WWII to accommodate Commonwealth war dead.
When you approach the entrance to the cemetery, you will find it padlocked (to keep out vandals and vagrants). Use the combination 1221 to enter.
Usually, when I visit, I find gardeners working there. It seems to me to be one of the best-kept gardens in all of Rome.
You will also find a piece of Hadrian’s Wall here. This is ironic as the piece of Roman Emperor Hadrian’s wall came to Rome all the way from England and is juxtaposed against the Aurelian Wall.
On Remembrance Day, November 11, there is a commemorative service, usually attended by all the Commonwealth Ambassadors as well as other dignitaries in Rome. There is a similar service on April 25, Anzac Day.
Wheelchair access to the cemetery is possible. [email protected]
Address: Via Nicola Zabaglia, 50
Hours: Mon - Fri 8 am – 3 pm
Another of the most visually interesting cemeteries in Rome is the Campo Verano Cemetery (Cimitero del Verano).
The area dates as a burial site going back 2,000 years, as demonstrated by the Catacombs of Santa Ciriaca underneath the basilica of San Lorenzo Fuori le Mura just next door (they are not visitable but trust me, they are there.)
The cemetery you see today was established in the early 1800s, when Napoleon ruled Rome. His favorite architect Giuseppe Valadier was the first architect (1807 to 1812).
It since has grown to be a vast cemetery with many different moods and architectural styles.
It's so enormous and so varied that walking tours take 2 hours.
Romans consider the Verano to be one of the most important cemeteries in Rome, if not the most important. Many famous graves are here, including of actors, politicians, and war heroes.
Address: Piazzale del Verano, 1
Hours: Open daily 7.30 am - 6 pm
Not far from Rome is Anzio beach, site of one of the most important landings in WWII.
It is therefore also the site of one of two cemeteries of American war dead in Italy (the other being Florence American Cemetery and Memorial site, just outside Florence.)
Clearly this is not a cemetery in Rome per se, but it's close to Rome and is one of the places visitors ask me about quite often.
There is another WWII cemetery in this area, The Commonwealth of Nations Anzio War Cemetery, often called the English War Cemetery.
Address: Piazzale Kennedy, 1
Hours: Open daily 9 am – 5 pm
It may seem odd to include Rome’s beautiful Roseto Rose Garden (Roseto Comunale) on a page about visiting cemeteries in Rome. But this is an unusual rose garden with an unusual history.
From 1645, the Jewish community of Rome began using this area as their cemetery. It was the Jewish Cemetery in Rome until 1934, when they were forced to sell it so the Fascist regime could create the via del Circo Massimo.
So, the Jewish community got permission to use a section of the monumental cemetery of Rome at Campo Verano (above.)
They were able to move 372 tombs and some of the more recent monuments to the Verano, but the move was done in haste, and hundreds of older graves remained undisturbed.
So even today as you walk in the beautiful Roseto Rose Garden, you are in fact walking over the old Jewish Cemetery. A sign at the entrance states that anyone with the name Coen should not enter as this is forbidden by Jewish Law.
In memory of the origins of this site, the walkways are in the shape of a 7-branch candelabra (like the one that was looted from the Temple of Jerusalem by the Flavians.)
You will also find a small monument showing the Tablets of Law at each of the two entrances. Visitors often leave stones on top, which honors the memory of those buried here.
In 1931, American-born Countess Mary Gailey Senni, who married to an Italian aristocrat, came up with the idea and first design of the current rose garden, which included 300 roses.
Today there are over 1,100 roses and many varieties from around the world. A contest is held each spring for the most beautiful rose.
Details: Open only from April 21 (Rome's birthday) through the first week of June, and in recent years, also the first two weeks of October.
One of the smallest and probably least well-known cemeteries in Rome is actually inside Vatican City.
Just past the gate of the Swiss Guard, there is a small, beautiful graveyard, the Campo Santo Teutonico, or Teutonic Cemetery.
Burial is reserved for members of the Confraternity of Our Lady of the German Cemetery, which owns the cemetery, and for members of German colleges and religious houses in Rome.
In February 2015, Pope Francis approved the burial of a homeless Flemish man, Willy Herteleer.
It is available to visit but it’s not easy.
You need to come between 9am – 12pm, and you must ask the Swiss Guard if you can visit the cemetery.
I once heard you had to ask them in Dutch or German but I believe you can ask in another language as well.
Address: Via di Porta Cavalleggeri, 7891, 00165 IT, 00120 Roma, Vatican City
Hours: Open Thursday - Tuesday 9 am – 12 pm. Closed on Wednesdays.
High on the Janiculum Hill overlooking Rome, you will find an imposing equestrian statue of Giuseppe Garibaldi, the famed Italian general and leader of the Italian “Risorgimento”, which was a long-fought war for the unification of Italy.
The statue is in a “Piazzale”, or round plaza, and from there you can wander past the Eucalyptus trees to visit the “Big Fountain.”
All this quiet beauty seems an unusual place to have a cemetery, but it was in fact one of the sites of the bloodiest battles fought for Rome’s liberation.
Just past the Big Fountain you will come to a Fascist-style monument (inaugurated in 1941), called the Ossario, or bone-repository (yes it sounds much more elegant in Latin.)
The Mausoleum houses the remains of those who died in the battles for Rome between 1849 to 1870.
One of the most famous graves in this Rome cemetery is that of Goffredo Mameli, a young Genoese poet, who was wounded nearby in 1849. He died of his injuries at the age of only 22.
Address: Mausoleo Ossario Garibaldino, Via Garibaldi, 29
Hours: Open on Thursdays 10.30 am – 12.30 pm.