Piazza Campidoglio is the home of the Capitoline Museums. The museums are loaded with interesting ancient Roman statuary (www.museicapitolini.org). This area of Rome is Capitoline Hill, located between the Forum and the Campus Martius. It was the citadel of the earliest Romans; like the ancient Greek acropolis in Greece. Click on the map to see how many interesting sites are in this area; within walking distance. Some of these intriguing sites in Rome include: the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and highlights of ancient Rome.
As you walk around Rome, look for Rome’s trusty maps to help you identify key sites in the area. Many of the sites will provide plaques that identify some of the key monuments. Here’s a map of the Viminale Hill. The Viminal Hill is the smallest of the famous seven hills of Rome. At the top of Viminal Hill there is the palace of Viminale that hosts the headquarters of the Ministry of the Interior. The hill first became part of the city of Rome during the reign of Servius Tullius; Rome’s 6th king.
The forefathers of the United States named their Capitol Hill after this Roman site. Were they thinking about the massive debt problem negotiations when they named their meeting place for the United States Congress in Washington D.C. after this ancient Roman location?
According to legend, the mythological twins, Romulus and Remus were raised on Palatine Hill by a she-wolf. Palatine is one of Rome’s seven hills and inextricably tied to the origins of Rome. The mythical Romulus killed his brother and laid out a circuit of walls; the “Roma Quadrata” that became the nucleus of the city. When you see the statue of the she wolf nursing Romulus and Remus be sure to pet her face for good luck.
The Roman Emperors selected this area of Rome to house their royal residences. There is a beautiful panoramic vista of the Forum and the Colosseum from the terrace of the Palazzo Senatorio. The view from the terrace of the square is especially captivating in the moonlight.
The existing design of the Piazza del Campidoglio and the surrounding palazzi was created by Renaissance artist and architect Michelangelo Buonarroti in 1536–1546. He was commissioned by the Farnese Pope Paul III, who wanted a symbol of the new Rome to impress Charles V, who was expected to arrive in Rome in 1538.
A balustrade punctuated by sculptures atop the giant pilasters is one Michelangelo’s most influential design elements. The two massive ancient statues of Castor and Pollux which decorate the balustrades are not the same conceptualized by Michelangelo, which now are in front of the Palazzo del Quirinale.
The bell tower was designed by Martino Longhi the Elder and built between 1578 and 1582. Its current facade was designed by Giacomo della Porta and Girolamo Rainaldi. Michelangelo provided new fronts for the two official buildings of Rome’s civic government, the Palazzo dei Conservatori and the Senatorio.
1. Climb the stairs to the top of the hill and tour the church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli. It is adjacent to the square and it is located near the location where the ancient citadel once stood. Visit the special Chapel of the Bambino in the church.
2. Visit the Capitoline Museums. The museum complex dates back to the 15thcentury. The museums are housed in two buildings connected by an underground passageway. The original structures were built during the 13th and 14th century. Admire the Capitoline Venus.
The Palazzo Senatorio (“Senatorial Palace”) stands atop the Tabularium that had once housed the archives of ancient Rome. Peperino blocks from the Tabularium were re-used in the left side of the palace and a corner of the bell tower. It now houses the Roman city hall. The two-sided staircase was designed by Michelangelo.
The palazzi are now home to the Capitoline Museums. In the museums there are plenty of interesting things to see. You can marvel at the giant body parts from the components of the “Colossus of Constantine.” They are located in the courtyard of the Palazzo dei Conservatori of the Capitoline Museums.
The Colossus of Constantine was a colossal acrolithic statue of the late Roman emperor Constantine the Great ( 280–337) that once occupied the west apse of the Basilica of Maxentius near the Forum Romanum in Rome. Portions of the Colossus now reside in the Courtyard of the Palazzo dei Conservatori of the Musei Capitolini, on the Capitoline Hill, above the west end of the Forum.
While you’re in the museums, check out the statue of Bernini’s Medusa. She didn’t always have a bad hair day. According to the myth, when she was seduced by Poseidon in Athen’s temple, the enraged virgin goddess Athena transformed her beautiful hair into serpents.
Athena made Medusa’a f ace so unattractive that the mere sight of her face would turn a man to stone. Be careful not to gaze directly at Medusa unless you are interesed in turning into stone. The museum is loaded with ancient classical sculptures. The Pinocateca Capitolina houses Renaissance paintings by Titan, Tintoretto and Caravaggio.
3. Get some photos of Michelangelo’s magnificent piazza and the corresponding panoramic view. He moved the ancient bronze equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius (161-180 AD) to the center of this square. The statue stood at the center of the Piazza for centuries until it was restored in 1990. He currently resides inside the Palazzo Nuovo in the museum. Admire the copy of the original statue in the Piazza. Although the original statue is now protected from the elements, he has unfortunately lost his panaoramic “Vino con Vista.”
4. Visit the “Rome from the Sky” booth and buy a ticket for the glass elevator. From the terrace of the “Quadrigas” of the Victor Emmanuel structure you will have an incredible panarama of Rome. Do not let the price of the ticket intimidate you, this is an outstanding panoramic view from the top of the historic monument.
5. After your exciting elevator trip, have a perfect “Vino con Vista” sitting under the umbrellas at the Cafe overlooking the city of Rome. I totally enjoyed my glass of 2009 Morellino di Scansano but you have plenty of other options at this rooftop cafe.
6. You will be close enough to t0ur the Roman Forum. The Roman Forum was the center of the Roman Empire. Visit the remains of arches, temples and basilicas including the House of the Vestal Virgins. The virgins were buried alive for breaking their vows. You can admire the Church of Santi Luca e Martina on the grounds of the Forum.
The Roman Senate House is where Caesar was assassinated. The Arch of Titus is a 1stcentury triumphal arch constructed in 82 by the Roman Emperor Domitian shortly after the death of his brother Titus.
The arch commemorates the capture of Jerusalem in 70 AD that ended the revolt against the Romans. This arch was the inspiration for the Arch de Triomphe in Paris built in 1806. The structures in the Forum provide interesting insights into life in ancient Rome. Admire the Chiesa dei Santi Luca e Martina.
7. Walk over to Piazza Venezia and the Victor Emanuel II National Monument. The “Wedding Cake” building was initiated in 1885 to honor the 1861 Unification of the Kingdom of Italy. It was designed by Giuseppe Sacconi. It is dedicated to the first King of the unified country. The statues surrounding the base of the equestrian statue represent fourteen historically significant Italian cities. A flame burns on the front terrace of the building to mark the “Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.”
The Museo del Risorgimento has interesting exhibits dedicated to Italy’s unification. Since I am a teacher, I loved the alphabet exhibit; so remember B is for banane in Italian.
8. Admire the Triumphal Arch of Constantine. It is one of the last monuments built by Imperial Rome in 312 AD before Constantine moved the capital to the Byzantine side of the globe. It commemorates his victory over co-emperor Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge 312 AD.
9. On your way to the Colosseum, tour the ancient church dedicated to the twin brothers Saints Cosma e Damiano. The church is loaded with incredible mosaics.
10. Time to walk over the the Colosseum. The Colosseum is Rome’s largest amphitheater. It was built in 72 AD as an elliptical sports stadium. This venue was primarily designed for deadly gladiator combat and wild animal fights. This amphitheater is the largest ever built by the Roman Empire with a base of six acres. The exterior of the grand stone ellipse was made of travertine blocks that were held together with metal camps instead of mortar.
When you tour the inside of the massive structure, you will see the elaborate network of underground passageways that were used during Roman times.
The stadium could hold up to 50,000 spectators. In ancient Rome, the spectators were covered with a canopy called a velarium suspended by ropes and masts attached to stone corbels on the upper level of the structure. Gladiatorial combat ended in the 6th century.
Dr. EveAnn Lovero writes Italy Travel Guides. To learn more about Rome visit www.vino-con-vista.com
- See the Vatican’s secret files! (foodstaycation.com)
- Travel advice: Are city passes worth the money? (dailymail.co.uk)
- How to Decipher the Eternal City of Rome (vinoconvistablog.me)
- Historic Rome: A UNESCO Site in Italy (vinoconvistablog.me)
- Saint Agnese in Agone and Piazza Navona in Rome (vinoconvistablog.me)
- San Marco is the Church of the Venetian Community in Rome (vinoconvistablog.me)
- My Glorious Vino Con Vista Weekend in Rome: Non Basta una Vita (vinoconvistablog.me)
- The Sack of Rome (oup.com)