Tourists can visit Papal dungeon in Rome's Castel Sant'Angelo again

The dungeon beneath the papal fortress of Castel Sant'Angelo, where popes locked up criminals and enemies, reopens to the public on Friday after a ten-year closure for restoration work.

Through August 26, visitors will be offered nighttime guided tours of the prison built in the fort's cellars by Pope Alexander VI in 1503, stepping through darkened cells and an infamous courtroom where death sentences were handed down.

Organizers said the brief reopening of the restored prison is part of a summer festival of concerts and cultural events that takes place in Castel Sant'Angelo - a 2nd century monumental tomb built for the Roman emperor Hadrian later reused as a fortress by the popes.

The castle's dungeon hosted common criminals and illustrious figures, from a self-styled magician and religious leader known as the Count of Cagliostro to those who fought to unify the independent papal state with Italy in the 19th century.

Also imprisoned there was Florentine Renaissance master Benvenuto Cellini, held in the fortress for about a year in 1538 for killing his brother's murderer. Cellini drew on the walls of his cell images of God and Jesus, traces of which are still visible, and made a failed escape attempt by lowering himself from the prison's toilet with a rope made of sheets.

Tickets to the events at Castel Sant'Angelo cost 12 EUR (US$16.5) and the dungeon visits take place in groups of 20. Bookings can be made at the entrance or on the Internet.