Escape Rome: Secret of the Vatican [Review]

Location: Escape Rome, Via Carlo Botta (Termini region), Rome, Italyescape_rome_logo_small

Date completed: March 2016 (2 players). Succeeded escaping!

Creativity: 7Difficulty: 5; Atmosphere: 6; Fun: 8.5


  • Very Basic Italian or English
  • 2-5 players

We recently traveled to Italy to enjoy a (much-deserved) annual leave. We were enchanted by the the Roman ruins, the Vatican Museums, the Borghese Gallery and by so many other beautiful places in the city. But once our brains got really indulged by all the information and history, it was time to put the grey cells back to work. And what could be more appropriate than facing the challenge of a Vatican-themed escape room?

We had one hour to explore the room of puritan priest Father Fabiano, who was said to be one of the main holders of the Secret of the Vatican. What sort of things will we find before he returns?

According to Daniel, our gamemaster at Escape Rome, Secret of the Vatican is his favourite room. He likes the setting and the variety of puzzles. After playing it, we had to agree: the room is a lot of fun and the puzzle flow was flawless. We never intended to do a speed run, but we finished the room with more than 20 minutes to spare, only because one thing chained very well into the next one.

This does not mean that Secret of Vatican is super-easy. It is linear, however some tasks are not obvious and take some thinking or experimentation. Most of the setting is relevant to the game and there are few red herrings. Some traditional puzzles, which can be considered “cliché” elsewhere, were well executed and given a very nice touch here. The props are nice and fit well the theme. There were religious icons, images of churches, books and that lingering mystery sensation.

The room is well decorated – not too much, not too little – and requires search skills. Your ability to observe and associate things will also be put to use. Be prepared for some puzzles requiring mechanical intelligence and others where you have to pay attention to how some props work (or may work) in your favour.

Vatican - 5
(These people are not us, but the nice people at Escape Rome!)

We’ve played more than 40 different rooms, and this one still showed something that we had never seen before! According to Daniel, a certain “bedazzling” puzzle that gave us a nice “a-ha!” moment was inspired by a scene of the “Da Vinci Code” movie. I didn’t remember the scene and we only solved that puzzle after I left it aside for a while and Trapspringer decided to have a go. A fresh view was essential!

Should I also say that this room DOESN’T use UV lights? They became so standard in escape rooms that it was interesting to not see them here!

It is not essential to be a Christian to play Secret of the Vatican (it may be obvious, but better to clarify). However, those who have been exposed to how a Bible is structured will have an easier time. Nothing complicated though. Religion is the backdrop of this room’s scenario, but it does not follow any specific trait or event from Christianity (as opposed to the Exodus room in Lost Hong Kong, for example). Having said that, language is not an essential element in the puzzles.

When we finally opened the door, we realized we had solved the last puzzle in a slightly more creative way than the room required. (That is a metaphor for “LOL, are you two crazy or what?”) It worked anyway, so I’m fine with it 😛

Daniel then asked us about the Secret of the Vatican, but we obviously will not write it down here! It was nice to see that the final puzzle had an esoteric meaning behind it.

Escape Rome opened in 2014 and is certainly worth a  visit if you go to Rome as its service to English speakers is excellent. Secret of the Vatican is family-friendly. It will please those who like nicely-dosed challenges and Dan Brown-esque stories.

We also played Escape Rome’s CSI and Bodies rooms.


Out of the room

Service: Daniel and the other staff at Escape Rome were friendly and approachable. Briefing before the game was great, as well as the debriefing afterwards. Our gamemaster was sincerely interested in our impressions of the room – and the other rooms we played there as well. We had a good chat about puzzles in general and he recommended an awesome trattoria (pasta restaurant) for us to have dinner, just around the corner, called Vecchia Roma.

Escape Rome has a large waiting area and they offer water and lollies to all players. You can hang your stuff at the reception or bring it with yourself to the room.

Communication: You do not talk to the gamemaster during the game. If you are stuck, you can press a white bottom on the wall and a hint/image will appear on the countdown screen. The gamemaster will also send a hint if he thinks you are spending too much time on the same activity. Escape Rome tends not to give out hints in the first 10 or so minutes, letting players settle down, find stuff, think for themselves and get into their own momentum. Daniel was flawless in the way he assisted gameplay flow by providing well timed subtle hints for all three Escape Rome games.

Surroundings: Escape Rome is located in the Termini region, Southeast of Rome’s city centre. It’s a 5 minute walk from Vittorio Emanuelle subway and 10 minutes from attractions such as the Colosseum, the Forum and the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. There are plenty of places to eat around there. Word of advice to foodies: Try not eating at restaurants right next to touristic points. Go one or two streets adjacent and find places with a high proportion of locals. Also, Italians tend to have dinner after 7pm/1900. Beware of restaurants that serve dinner before that time.

1024px-Santa_maria_maggiore_051218-01(Santa Maria Maggiore, where Bernini is buried, is just 5 min away from Escape Rome)



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