Buca dello spione – Rome, Italy - Atlas Obscura
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Rome, Italy

Buca dello spione

An 18th-century post box used to alert the church of sick and ailing foreign pilgrims.  

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For those who seek oddities in the center of Rome, the marble inscription on the side of the church of S. Salvatore alle Coppelle is a must-see. In Piazza delle Coppelle the inscription and box reveal the Church authorities’ concerns during the Jubilee of 1750.

The massive influx of pilgrims, who packed the city’s hotels and inns during this time, brought along concerns about the spread of epidemics across the Papal States. As a result, authorities constructed a number of spy post boxes around the city. The one in Piazza delle Coppelle may be the lone survivor.

As the Italian inscription describes, innkeepers and hoteliers were expected to report any sickly, dying, or dead foreigners and pilgrims by leaving a note in one of the boxes. Heavy sanctions were given to those who did not comply. However, citizens suspicious of the boxes began calling them Buca dello Spione, believing they were used to monitor and track of foreigners. 

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