Keats-Shelley Memorial House, Rome, Italy

Last year, I went on an overseas trip to Italy with my family and was lucky enough to stumble across the Keats-Shelley House in Rome. This little gem is located to the right of the Spanish Steps in the Piazza di Spagna if you’re facing the steps head on. The entrance is small and easy to miss if you’re not sure what you’re looking for, so if it weren't for my cellphone's GPS, I might easily have walked right past the museum. There is a sign outside, which helps, but most people seem to stroll by, perhaps uninterested or unaware of the interesting bit of literary history which took place there.

For a lover of language and English literature, I found my visit to this museum refreshing, as it offered a break away from the largely Italian sights and sounds of the city. This quaint section of a building houses a little piece of English history right in the middle of arguably the most famous and well-known Italian city – Rome. I had read about the Keats-Shelley House in a few articles covering the usual “What to do in Rome for a day” or the “Top ten must-see places to visit in Rome”, so I decided that I would do some exploring while in the vicinity.

As one walks in, one is greeted by a poster showing the entrance fees, which at the time were set to €5 for an adult and €4 for children under 18 years. There is also a banner giving a short introduction to the museum. One then proceeds up the staircase (which has many interesting pictures and illustrations hung on the walls) to the ticket office. Once one has purchased a ticket, one is invited to watch a brief film on the history of the house, Keats, and the Romantics. My favourite part though, are the quotations from the works of Keats and Shelley, which have been placed above two benches in the courtyard just outside the ticket office.

The museum is rather tiny, but its size definitely adds to its unique charm and character. The house itself is divided into numerous rooms, one of which includes a working library (not included in the house in Keats’s time) that contains an interesting collection of books and manuscripts. In other rooms, there are samples of handwritten documents and writings, including some of Keats’s letters. One of the most remarkable pieces I noticed was the calling card of Charles Dickens himself. It sits among other trinkets and calling cards in a glass case in one of the rooms. I could not believe how close these historical items brought me to the world of these literary greats – I could walk the halls they walked, see some of the things they saw, and witness pieces of their history and times.

Through a door leading off from the library area, one finds Keats’s bedroom – a small, plain area with a fireplace, a single bed, and a chair. The furniture is not original, as Keats’s original furniture was burnt to prevent the spread of disease, which was the norm at the time. The furnishings are historically accurate though and do give a feel of what Keats’s room may have been like while he lived there. There are certain original elements, such as the fireplace and the floors and ceilings throughout.

On the wall of this room, a plaque containing these words has been placed: “In this room on the 23rd of February 1821 died John Keats.” It is a sad reminder of this talented young poet’s death and suffering – John Keats arrived in Rome in November 1820, accompanied by a friend, Joseph Severn. Upon arrival, Keats was already very ill with tuberculosis, and his health was rapidly declining. He died only four months later in his room and was buried in the Non-Catholic Cemetery in Rome. He died at the young age of 25. Learning of Keats’s burial in Rome, I decided to visit his final resting place as well. The serenity of this cemetery would make for an entire blog entry on its own.

Despite the sombre atmosphere, particularly in Keats’s bedroom, the museum itself is captivating and is well worth a visit if you happen to find yourself near the Spanish Steps in Rome. It’s rich history and careful preservation make it a truly uniquely English experience not to be missed by fans of the Romantics.

For more information on the Keats-Shelley Memorial House, visit