Poet John Keats died of tuberculosis aged only 25 in this house in 1821. Keats had come to Rome in 1820 hoping to improve his health in the Italian climate, and rented two rooms on the 3rd floor of this building next to the Spanish Steps with painter companion Joseph Severn (1793–1879). The bookshelf-lined rooms, practically unchanged since 1909 when the museum was dedicated, evoke the impoverished lives of Keats and Severn, and house displays about the Romantic poets.
The building was purchased in 1906 by the Keats-Shelley Memorial Association, a group of British, American and Italian admirers of the Romantic poets. It houses a reference library focusing on the lives and work of Keats, Shelley, Byron, Wordsworth, Browning, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Wilde and others. Faded letters, death masks and other memorabilia fill the first room where Severn slept. Keats' bedroom includes portraits of Keats by Severn, letters written by Severn cursing the 'brutal' Italian authorities and a 19th-century, walnut-wood barco a letto ('boat bed') – the original was burnt, along with the entire contents in the room, to prevent the spread of infection.