Can you discover through Instagram the existence of a wonder that is only a couple of miles from the house where you always lived as a child? The answer, evidently, is yes. So it was for me and the Chinese Buddhist temple in Rome. It is only a few hundred meters from the area that saw me grow up, yet I had never seen it before I discovered it from a picture on social media. How is this possible? Because it is located in a ‘strange’ area of Rome. Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)
By strange I don’t mean anything bad. But, I mean, the Rome one knows is generally the one of Villa Borghese and Piazza di Spagna, the one of the Colosseum and the Imperial Forums. At most the one told in movies and novels, so Cinecittà, San Lorenzo, the Pigneto, Trastevere. Those who served in the military in Rome are familiar with the Cecchignola (an area that I, on the other hand, ignore since I went into community service in altervantiva to the draft). Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)
The Chinese Pagoda in Rome
Opened on April 1, 2013, the Pagoda is the largest Chinese Buddhist temple in Europe
I challenge anyone who is not from Rome to know where dell’Omo is located instead. It is in fact a road on the edge of the capital, just inside the Grande Raccordo Anulare, in the Prenestina area. It is an area that has been left to decay over the years and used essentially for large warehouses for bulk storage and transport of materials. As a child I frequented it, with my parents, for only two reasons: on Via dell’Omo there is a large home furniture store and there was Cerbiatto, a company famous for making sweets and croissants. Otherwise just big warehouses and the comings and goings of trucks. Over time the area was ‘colonized’ by the Chinese. Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version) Slowly that is, all the sheds have passed to Chinese owners. And today walking down that street feels like China Town. In short, not really a tourist area.
Buddhist Temples Rome
Right there, however, not surprisingly I would say, stands the Pagoda, the largest Chinese Buddhist temple in all of Europe.
A corner of the east in the Roman suburbs
The Pagoda was officially opened on April 1, 2013, by then Mayor of Rome Gianni Alemanno and representatives of the Chinese Buddhist community (article with video from La Repubblica newspaper here). A Buddhist place of worship, recognized by the Italian state, that immediately filled with worshippers. The temple, built apparently thanks to donations that arrived from Taiwan, is the largest Chinese Buddhist temple in Europe.
Actually glimpsing it from the outside is not easy. It is surrounded by walls similar to those of the many wholesale warehouses next door. Only the roof of the entrance, with its classic architecture, hints that there is much more inside. And indeed, peeking through the gate, one is confronted with a wonderful temple of classical imperial monastic architecture typical of China in the 1800s.
At the entrance two imposing stone lions open the passage through an inlaid wooden door. Inside is a sober, elegant, quiet room. A large white statue of Buddhah in the foreground and behind three other depictions of the divine. At the back is another large room with spaces for meditating and, enclosed in glass cases, more Buddha statues.
Guided tours of the Buddhist Pagoda in Rome
I went twice to visit it. On the first occasion I found it almost deserted and was able to quietly take a few photos, stopping to admire some of the details of both the architecture and the statues. The few people I met did not speak a word of Italian so I could not ask any questions. And of things that intrigued me there were plenty. On the second occasion, unfortunately, I found it closed, much to the distress of my brother who had come there especially from the other side of Rome to see it. There are in fact — I didn’t know, I just recently found out — public opening hours for tours: 10-12 and 14-16. Guided tours can also be given. Many are done with school children: a temple master explains the history of the Buddha-Siddhartha, before experiencing the meditation firsthand. Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)
Even those who do not believe, or who believe in other faiths, cannot help but be fascinated by the atmosphere in the Chinese pagoda and the art that exudes inside. One almost forgets that one is on the outskirts of Rome.
Chinese temple in Rome, where it is located
The Pagoda is located at 142 Via dell’Omo in Rome. To get there it is best to use private transportation, or a cab. With public transportation, in fact, the area is not well served. The least complicated solution is to take bus 501 from Largo Preneste (reachable by bus or streetcar from Termini station or other areas). The stop is the one before the ring road, then there is a few hundred meters to walk among warehouses and vans. Not exactly smooth in short: that’s why I recommend going by car. Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)
If you are a tourist visiting this part of Rome I recommend, not far away, Forte Prenestino. It is located a few kilometers from the Chinese Pagoda is and is one of the lesser known parts of Rome that is worth seeing