Rome is the capital of Italy and there are a lot of things to do here. It is also dubbed as the Eternal City and the capital of the world.
A skyline photo of Rome. (Link: https://cruiseandcoachworld.com.au/tour/9-day-scenic-bel-viaggio-nice-rome)
Some of the famous places to see in Rome are the Colosseum, St. Peter’s Square, St. Peter’s Basilica, The Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, the Sistine Chapel, the Spanish Steps, the Roman Forum, and many more. People go to these places for the art, the architecture, and the history. However, there is a place in Rome that people go to in order to see something ghostly or paranormal. This is the Ponte Sisto, a bridge in Rome that spans over the Tiber river.
The Ponte Sisto bridge. (Link: https://cityseeker.com/rome/710362-sixtus-bridge-ponte-sisto)
If you want to know more about this supposedly haunted bridge, read on!
The History Of Ponte Sisto
The bridge was built between 1473 and 1479 and it was commissioned by Pope Sixtus IV. The architect who worked on the bridge was Baccio Pontelli. He reused the foundation of a former Roman bridge called the Pons Aurelius. The Pons Aurelius was destroyed during the early Middle Ages and so the Ponte Sisto bridge was built over it.
Pope Sixtus IV in an undated portrait. (Link: https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/pope-sixtus-iv-37155.php)
The Ponte Sisto was strategically built to help lessen the river’s pressure on the bridge in case of a flood. It had an eye lightening or a circular oculus as they call it. Back in the day, there were two marble slabs on the left head of the bridge, which had Latin inscription in honor of Sixtus IV. However, these slabs were removed in the 1990s due to the vandalism problems in the area.
Today, the Ponte Sisto is open only to pedestrians. The bridge connects to the Campo de’ Fiori area, which is popular to young Romans and tourists as a place for a Friday night out.
The other end of the Ponte Sisto bridge. (Link: https://www.tripadvisor.com/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g187791-d265528-i1269118-Hotel_Ponte_Sisto-Rome_Lazio.html)
The Ghost At The Ponte Sisto
There are a lot of ghosts in Rome per the claims of the locals and the other paranormal experts who went to investigate.
However, only one ghost resides at the Ponte Sisto and it belongs to Dame Olimpia. Accordingly, Olimpia was poor and had no power but she was to marry one of the richest men in Rome. She was also beautiful so it could be the reason why she was set to marry someone who had a better financial status than her. Her first husband died years later.
A bust of Dame Olimpia. (Link: https://spanishstepsapartment.wordpress.com/2016/10/29/a-roman-ghost-the-formidable-donna-olimpia/)
She then married another man and this time it was Pamphilio Pamphilj, who was the brother of the then cardinal Pope Innocenzo X. Her husband died a few years later again but she never married again. Because she is now rich and is basically the only relative of the Pope, anyone who wanted to have business in Rome went to her with gifts. This was because the Pope fully relied on the advices of Dame Olimpia. Some claimed that Dame Olimpia and her brother-in-law were actually lovers that is why the Pope listened so much to her.
An undated portrait of Pope Innocenzo X. (Link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portrait_of_Innocent_X)
When Pope Innocenzo X died, Dame Olimpia knew that without him, she no longer had power and she was in a very dangerous situation since she has treated others unkindly and the Romans were unhappy they were being ruled by a woman and a former commoner. The Pope actually made her the Minister of the streets of Rome and the Minister of Finance of the Vatican. She then used this power to impose high taxes in order to increase their family’s wealth. Because of how she acted when she was still in power, many people wanted to harm her. She then took two trunks full of gold and left the city through the Ponte Sisto bridge.
The Ponte Sisto bridge at night. (Link: https://www.shutterstock.com/video/clip-1017167437-ponte-sisto-night-san-pietros-dome-background)
No one ever saw Dame Olimpia after she ran away but people say that her spirit lingers in the bridge. Whenever her apparition is reportedly spotted, she is seen riding in a black carriage at a very high speed. Dame Olimpia is seen clinging to the crates of gold close to her chest while the four black horses pulled the carriage. She is also allegedly heard cursing the Romans for their hate towards her. People even gave her the nicknamed Pimpaccia or the woman full of sins in the English language.
The carriage is said to traverse through the Gianicolo Hill, then over the gate of San Pancrazio, then finally stops at the Villa Pamphilj, which was Dame Olimpia’s second residence. Her carriage would later disappear and her laughter could be heard.
Some claim that she was never seen again while others claim she died during the plague two years after her escape. However, there was never a concrete record to prove her cause of death.