Porta Alchemica: The Alchemist Door
While this ''magic door'' is famous to Romans, it is barely noticed by tourists visiting Rome, Italy. But in the central district of Piazza Vittorio, inside the park, the remains of an old villa reveal a Magic or Alchemist Door, a portal into the real and secretive world of 16th century alchemy. Full of symbols and inscriptions, it was built during the early 1600s by the Roman Marquis Massimiliano Palombara, a member of a group of people known as ''The Alchemists of Palazzo Riario'' who congregated around the Roman court of Christina of Sweden, the Queen Regent. Christina was an ardent supporter of alchemy and science, and thinkers and science luminaries like Decarte and Athanasius Kircher were often found in her Italian court, along with alchemy enthusiasts like Massimiliano Palombara.
It is the only remaining of five gate doors to the Marquis' Palombara's villa. According to legend, the Marquis met an alchemist at a dinner party who told him he could use a certain herb to turn metals to gold. In the morning the alchemist (said to be Guiseppe Francesco Borri, a sort of alchemical zelig) was gone but had left behind some gold flakes, evidence apparently of his succesful transformations, and an indecipherable sheet 'the recipe' for the transformation. Because the Marquis was unable to read it, he inscribed the recipe on his doors in the hope that someone who could understand it would see it and come knocking.
Mystery and occult beliefs still surround the door, and a mysterious symbol above the doorway fuels many of these theories. But of course, to most visitors to Rome, it's just another mysterious ruin.