The Eleventh Gate
by Rossella Cirigliano
After almost two decades of living in Rome, I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I knew very little about the history of the Aurelian Walls (or mura aureliane in Italian), the old Roman defensive walls that have surrounded the city for almost two thousand years. That is, until very recently when I was asked by Italian author Rossella Cirigliano to translate her book L'undicesima porta into English. The Eleventh Gate, a surreal murder mystery novel with a dash of romance, is a genre busting page turner set in the fictive Porta Gaia, a small museum in one of the many gates dotted along the old Roman Walls. The book is set in modern day Rome, yet is rich in historical detail about ancient Roman times as seen through the eyes of the ghost Lucius, a legionary from the days of Aurelian and spiritus loci of the place.
My curiosity was piqued. I arranged to meet Rossella and see the real gate for myself. I won’t reveal here which of the seventeen gates is the basis for the novel... I’ll let you, the reader, solve that particular mystery for yourself. The photo gallery below, however, should provide some clues to the location. The gate and its towers afford spectacular views as far as the distant Castelli Romani in the volcanic Alban Hills. The entire history of Rome is spread out before us from this vantage point – starting from the ancient Roman Terme di Caracalla and Circo Massimo through to the twentieth-century Gazometro (gasometer).
Exploring Rome’s ancient walls is a fascinating way to spend a day in Rome. And if you love the Eternal City and a good thriller The Eleventh Gate is the perfect summer read on your Roman Holiday!