The Passetto, also known as the 'Corridor' of the Borgo, is the longest remaining stretch of the walls that Leo IV had built between 848 and 852 AD. to defend the Vatican area from any Saracen invasions, creating a fortified citadel that took the name of Civitas Leoniana Leonine Citadel from the name of the pope himself.
The Passetto was built in 1277 using a stretch of the Vatican Walls to which the roof was added. Over the centuries other popes endowed and strengthened it with patrol walkways, battlements, watchtowers, raised it and fortified it.
The structure now consists of an open walkway, which was used by the guards in charge, and a closed corridor below, which was conceived to be used in case of danger by the Pope.
The strategic importance of the Passetto emerged most in the darkest and most painful periods for Rome and for the Church itself.
In fact, it was used by Alexander VI of the Borgia family when in 1494 he walked the 800 meters to find refuge in Castel Sant'Angelo during the invasion of Rome by the militias of Charles VIII of France (1494).
In 1527, the Passetto was also used as an escape route by Pope Clement VII of the Medici family who took refuge in Castel Sant'Angelo during the Sack of Rome by the Landsknechts, (German-speaking mercenaries) of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V of Habsburg (1527).
This is the last major undertaking linked to the Passetto, which at the end of the sixteenth century saw its defensive function wane.
Only in the following centuries, when the walls needed restoration, it was a long covered passage that runs straight from the apostolic palaces to the fortress of Castel S.Angelo.
The Passetto di Borgo is a little known curiosity of the story of the Vatican.
Nonetheless it is very interesting to know the history of this passage and to imagine, when we pass under its arches, how life was in those times
This is not a place normally accessible to the public, but only through guided tours.