Rome may be home to the Vatican, but not everyone who lives (or dies) in the Eternal City is Catholic. One of the city’s loveliest cemeteries is dedicated to Protestants and non-Catholics, both Italian and foreign, and is home to a number of important tombs, including those of English poets Keats and Shelley.
English travelers began to come through Rome on the Grand Tour in the 18th century, followed by a wave of writers and artists who settled there. Many were not Catholic, and Rome soon found it needed a cemetery to lay to rest Protestants who died while in the city. The first burial in Rome’s Protestant Cemetery was in 1738, making it one of the oldest cemeteries in continuous use in Europe. With the tombs of luminaries such as John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, American poet Gregory Corso, and Italian philosopher Antonio Gramsci, the cemetery is said to contain the highest density of famous graves anywhere in the world.
The Protestant Cemetery is also known locally as the Cemetery of the English (Cimitero degli Inglesi), though its official name is the Non-Catholic Cemetery for Foreigners. Visit the most famous graves in the Protestant Cemetery by joining a guided cemetery tour, or stop in to appreciate its beautiful statuary and moving inscriptions as part of a Rome highlights walking or bike tour.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The cemetery offers 1-hour guided tours that must be booked at least 10 days in advance.
- To find a specific grave, consult the burial database or pick up a cemetery map at the visitor center.
- Restrooms are available in the visitor center at the cemetery entrance.
- The cemetery is crisscrossed by paved and gravel walkways, some of which may be hard to navigate with a wheelchair or stroller.
How to Get There
The Protestant Cemetery is located in the southern Roman neighborhood of Testaccio, near Porta San Paolo and the Pyramid of Cestius. Take metro line B to the Piramide station.
When to Get There
The cemetery is outdoors so best toured on a clear day in spring and fall, when the temperatures are mild. The site is closed in the afternoon on Sundays and holidays.
The Most Beautiful Tombs in the Protestant Cemetery
Many of the most famous graves in the cemetery are surprisingly simple, while there are a number of remarkably beautiful tombs for less famous figures. Some of the most important are the neoclassical grave of Dutch sculptor Pier Pander, the statue of the young Georges Volkoff, and the Angel of Grief, designed by American sculptor William Wetmore Story for his wife’s grave.