30 September 2023
Fact checkMisleading

Misleading: Video does not show fire in Vatican City

The fire took place more than 10 kilometers away from the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church. It reportedly started in an archaeological park in an area called Centocelle in eastern Rome.


On July 11, a tweet in Chinese claimed the Vatican City, an independent city-state and the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church, was “engulfed with fire” but “the media did not report it.”

The post included a video showing vehicles moving on a street while a plume of dark gray smoke is visible in the sky. This video was also shared by other Twitter users in English (here and here) with similar claims.

Altogether, these tweets have been retweeted over 3,400 times and received nearly 7,000 likes at the time of writing. The clip itself has been viewed more than 450,000 times.

However, this video does not show the Vatican. The fire took place more than 10 kilometers away in an area called Centocelle in eastern Rome.

Through an image search, Annie Lab traced the video to a Facebook page named Inews24.it, a news and media company based in Italy, according to the description. This Facebook version of the video says it was taken by Inews24’s reporter.

Annie Lab reached out to the news outlet on July 18 and they said it was their original footage and it was shot on July 9 in Centocelle, not in Vatican City.

We also found a news video by Reuters about a fire that occurred in Centocelle Archeological Park, which appears to show the same incident.

We have geolocated the street in the Twitter video and can confirm that this was taken in Via Papiria, Centocelle.

Comparison of Via Papiria in Italy from Google Maps and the video from the misleading post
Comparison of the misleading tweet and Google Street View.
Distance between Vatican City and Centocelle Park
Vatican City and Centocelle Archeological Park are roughly 13.7km apart by driving.

As opposed to the claim in the Chinese tweet, the Centocelle fire has been widely reported by the media (here, here and here).

According to the Brussel Times, the authorities in the city suspected arson.

Below is a map of fires that broke out in Rome so far this year made by Vigili del Fuoco, Italy’s fire and rescue service agency. No fire has been recorded to have occurred in the Vatican.

screenshot of map of fires in Italy in first half of 2022
Map of fires in Rome in 2022 made by Vigili del Fuoco. Annie Lab marked the Vatican City (Città del Vaticano). No fire has occurred there this year as of this writing.

This claim has also been fact-checked by Belgian magazine Knack.