Magic Door: The first place in Rome that any modern alchemist or would-be mage heads for is, of course, the Magic Door in the park in the center of the huge Piazza Vittorio Emanuele (it's just three blocks south of the Termini train station -- use your map). Contrary to what some modern guidebooks say, the "porta" (door or gateway) into magic-land is the circular medallion with the inscribed hexagram at the top of the structure and not the dark slab in the upright rectangular base -- the dark slab, in fact may have once supported other decorations which are no longer mounted on the monument.

The Magic Door originally stood in front of a gate leading to the nearby Garden of the Villa of the Marchese Massimiliano Palombara. Sources differ as to the date of its construction: it was either installed by the Marchese in 1655 as a monument to his own interests in alchemic esoterica, or it was built in 1680 to commemorate a supposedly successful alchemic experiment -- creation of gold from base metal -- in the salon of Queen Christina of Sweden. Christina had abdicated her throne and abandoned Protestantism, became a Catholic, came to Rome, and was a big patron of poets, artists, and, not least, alchemists -- word around town was that she had lots of base metal and needed lots of gold. The Magic Door was moved to its present location early in the 20th century.

The monument has numerous symbols and inscriptions used in alchemy, and legend has it that if you say them in just the right order (unfortunately unknown) and pronounce them perfectly you can get through the door and presumably return with goodies from another dimension. The inscriptions are hard to read from the monument itself, but they are (supposedly) faithfully transcribed on several Internet sites, some of which are listed below.

Queen Christina and the Magic Door:

La porta Magica (in Italian):

Porta di Villa Polumbara (in Italian):

Compendium of learned articles about Alchemy: (part of a huge Internet site covering everything you might want to know about Alchemy: