On a hill overlooking the Roman Forum is Piazza Campidglio much of which was designed by Michelangelo. Surrounding the Piazza on three sides are Renaissance palaces that now constitute the Capitoline Museum.
If you have only enough time to visit one museum in Rome I advise you the Capitoline Museum on the Campidoglio.
You will not be waiting in a long line as with the museum of the Vatican and you will see very famous pieces of the Antique art. Moreover the site of the museum is one of most beautiful of Rome.
In fact there are 3 museums on Piazza Campidoglio. They are called "Musei Capitolini" and belong to the city of Rome. The sole entry is on the right by the “Palazzo dei Consevatori”. Here on two floors and about thirty rooms is the main part of the collections. The most outstanding artefacts are statues of bronze or marble of the ancient Rome. Most known are “La Lupa - the She-wolf”, “the Spinario” and the equestrian statue of Marc-Aurelius.
By an underground gallery the visitors reach, after a right turn, the arcades of the antique “Tabularium”, located under the "Palazzo dei Senatorio" and present town hall, from where one has imposing sights on the Foro Romano and the Palatine hill.
By this same underground the visitors join, on the other side of the Piazza Campidoglio the “Palazzo Nuovo” which comprises a dozen rooms with statues of which most known are the “Fauna” and “the dying Gaul”.
The exit of the Capitoline Museums is by this palace.
The collections of statues and archaeological artefacts of the “Musei Capitolini” were made up as from 1471 by the Popes and Roman important families like the Horti and the Castellani. The Pinacotheca, art gallery of the second floor was founded by Pope Benoit XIV in the 18th century. There is also a cabinet of currencies and medals.
For more detailed reviews see my tips under "Musei Capitolini Museums":
Marcus Aurelius statue,
Best Bronze statues,
Best Marble statues,
Open: 9 - 20 h. Closed on Monday, 25/12, 1/01 & 1/05.
Price (2013): 13 €, reduced 11 €, for EU citizens less than 25 y. or more than 65 years.
Nice cafeteria with terrace on the 2nd floor.
Capitoline Hill is the highest of the fabled seven, and was the pinnacle of ancient Rome's status as leader of the world. Most of the structures from that period have been destroyed or built over but Michelangelo's beautiful, 16th-century Piazza del Campidoglio and the Capitoline Museums are well worth a stagger to the top. With the remodeling of some existing structures, a mathematically clever paving design and addition of a staircase (Cordonata), the great painter, sculptor and architect changed the symbolic orientation of power away from the pagan ruins of the forum and towards the Vatican. Among other sites to visit on the hill are the ruins of ancient Roman apartments and Temple of Jupiter, church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli and the enormous, painfully bright Victor Emmanuel Monument.
Although you can get to the top more than one way, the Cordonata is on Via Del Teatro Di Marcello.
The Campidoglio or Capitoline Hill or Capitol Square is the shortest of the seven hills that constitute the ancient city of Rome established by Romulus in 753 BC after killing his brother, Remus. But it is the most sacred owing to the presence of the Jupiter temple and the temple to the Capitoline Triad, Jupiter and Juno and their daughter Minerva, constructed by Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, the last king of Rome. The name of the hill refers to the discovery of a human skull (‘caput’), while the foundation for the temple was being dug. The English word, 'Capital', is derived from ‘caput’ and, by extension, the name of the hill, Capitoline.
This hill and the nearby hills are drenched in history and in blood. Besides the fratricidal killing of Remus by his twin brother Romulus in Palantine Hill, it is the place where the invading Sabines, living in the north-east of Rome, crushed the Vestal Virgin Tarpeia under their shields when she went to claim her reward for betraying her city by letting them in. She had wanted their gold bracelets which they wore on their left hand but they used their shields, which also they wore on their left hand, to crush her instead. The part of the hill where she was buried is called the Tarpeian Rock. After her, all traitors of the city were unceremoniously pushed down to their death from this rock. In later years, the Temple of Jupiter was used as a refuge by Brutus and the other co-conspirators after their assassination of Julius Caesar.
For a few centuries the hill remained in ruins. It was only in 1536 that Pope Paul III commissioned Michelangelo to re-design the place completely for the grand reception of Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor. The genius went to work and designed the staircase, the buildings on the three sides, the convex pavement and the pedestal for the bronze equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius. He reversed the architecture completely to face St. Peter’s Basilica instead of the traditional opening towards the Roman Forum. This was to emphasise the importance of the Pope and of the Church over the lives of the people of Rome. The staircase was completed in 1550. However, it was only much later that his entire plan was conceived.
As you climb up the majestic Cordonata, as the sloping steps are called, to the top of the Capitoline Hill, you'll probably encounter quite a few Roman soldiers dressed as they would have quite a few centuries ago. You could probably greet them with the traditional Roman forearm clasp and take a few photos alongside them but this enthusiasm may set you back by a pretty penny.
The Cordonata looks like a sweeping staircase. It is actually a ramp with short risers which allowed easy access to the horses. At the top of the steps, on either side are statues of the Dioscuri (Gemini Twins) and their horses, considered to be the protectors of Rome. Castor is to the left and Pollux to the right. Both were created during the period of Septimius Severus (c. 200 AD) and kept in the Temple of Castor and Pollux next to Circus Flaminius. In 1584 AD, these two statues were removed from their original position and placed here. The egg-shaped cap worn by the right hand-side Dioscuri, refers to the mythology of Leda's hatching of two eggs after her union with Zeus, who came to her, disguised as a swan.
Further to your right, beside the statue of Pollux, stands a striking array of statues from the time of Domitian and his battles against the Dacian King, Decebalus, in 85 AD. Earlier, it was mistaken for the 'Trophei di Mario' or 'Trophies of Marius', a reference to Gaius Marius (157-86 BC), the Roman General who defeated the Germanic Cimbri and Teutonic tribes and was considered the third founder of Rome.
After you huff and pant your way to the top, you are rewarded by the sight of the beautiful perfectly-proportioned Piazza del Campidoglio. A copy of the bronze equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius in positioned in the centre of the square. The original was housed safely inside the Capitoline Museum in 1997 as the elements had been too rough on it over the centuries and after a bomb was exploded damaging the legs of the horse. If you look carefully, you will notice that Marcus Aurelius is riding his horse without a stirrup (the original statue was erected in 176 AD). The reason is that stirrups arrived in Europe only in the 6th. or 7th. century.
Behind is the Palazzo Senatorio with Michelangelo’s double staircase and statues of the River God Nile on the left and River God Tigris on the right, both of 2nd. century vintage. The River God Nile holds a cornucopia in the left hand while reclining against an Egyptian Sphinx. The River God Tigris also holds a cornucopia in the left hand but reclines on a She-Wolf. Later, the statue of Tigris was changed to that of the River Tiber by making alterations to the head to resemble a she-wolf with the babes Romulus and Remus suckling her for milk.
In the middle is the statue of Dea Roma, the Goddess of Rome. When water finally arrived in 1588 to the Capitoline Hill via the Aqua Felice aqueduct, the statue of Minerva was moved to the Capitoline Museum and replaced by the smaller statue of Dea Roma. In the vacant place, a fountain was constructed. The statue of Dea Roma holds a globe in her left hand, symbolising Rome as the centre of the world. Only the head, arms and feet of the statue are of marble. The rest of the body is made of porphyry.
Behind all this and facing you is the Senatorium or Town Council. To your left is the statuary-filled Palace of the Conservatori or Curators while to your right is the Capitoline Museum. These house some of the greatest artefacts of classical sculpture in the world. The other steps adjoining the Cordonata approach will take you to the Santa Maria d'Aracoeli (St Mary of the Altar in the Sky), which stands at the highest point of Capitoline Hill.
First Written: Oct. 17, 2012
Palazzo Nuovo, meaning “new palace,” is the smaller of the two museums on the Capitoline Hill. It is a spectacular museum, including many objects from antiquity. One of the most stunning antiques is the large lounging sculpture of a water god, called Marforio by the Romans, found just inside the main entry way. Being a water god, it is appropriate the Marforio is the centerpiece of a fountain (see photo #1).
Palazzo Nuovo was built in the 17th century under the direction of Girolamo Rainaldi and his son Carlo. From the outside, Palazzo Nuovo is identical to Palazzo dei Conservatori, across Piazza dei Campidoglio. Palazzo Nuovo and Palazzo dei Conservatori comprise the Musei Capitolini Museums, which were established in 1471 by Pope Sixtus I. The Holy Father donated a series of bronze statues to the city of Rome.
On exhibit here are mostly sculptures from Ancient Greece and Rome. A satyr (see photo #2); a lion and Minerva, goddess of Wisdom (see photo #3); as well as numerous plaques with Roman text (see photo #4) are examples of what you will see.
The one of the most well-known works from Antiquity is the Capitoline Venus (see photo #5). She is Venus Pudica, a modest Venus. Posed with her right hand moving to cover her breasts and her left placed over her groin, she emerges from her bath. This is an original, dating from the second or third centuries BC; many copies followed.
Venus was found on the Viminal Hill in the Stazi family gardens; Clement X (born 1590, pope from 1670 to 1676) was pope. Bought by Pope Benedict XIV from the Stazi in 1752, the Holy Father gave it to the Capitoline Museums. Venus is displayed in her own Classically-designed niche — called the Cabinet of Venus — on the ground floor.
Venus was loaned to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. from June 8 to September 18, 2011, being shown in the rotunda of the West Building.
Entry into the museum was once directly from Piazza dei Campidoglio but no longer. Tickets must be bought at the Palazzo dei Conservatori; and an underground passage leads to Palazzo Nuovo. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 09:00 to 20:00.
Palazzo dei Conservatori displays a variety of art work, from Ancient Rome to the Counter Reformation, including a bronze of Pope Innocent X (born, 1574; pope, 1644-1655). The Holy Father (see photo #1) is enthroned, shown in the act of blessing; it is the work of Alessandro Algardi (1598-1654). Created between 1645-1650 it now can be seen in the Hall of the Horatii and Curiatii of the Conservators’ Apartment in Palazzo dei Conservatori.
Among the mighty divine Roman heros on display at the Palazzo dei Conservatori, Hercules (see photo #3) and Mars (see photo #4), is a mere mortal hero, Marc Antonio Colonna (see photo #2). He commanded the papal squadron during the 1571 naval Battle of Lepanto. Waged in the Mediterranean between the Ottoman Turks and the forces of Europe, Colonna helped to win this engagement decisively. He was hailed a hero, and like all heroes of Rome a sculpted marble likeness of him was carved.
A very arresting sight in this museum is that of a dramatically lighted warrior (see photo #5). Mostly head and torso, it is an Ancient Roman marvel.
“Through this sign of salvation, which is the true symbol of goodness, I rescued your city and freed it from the tyrant’s yoke, and through my act of liberation I restored the Senate and People of Rome to their ancient renown and splendor.”
— the inscription that is thought to have been carved beneath the Colossus of Constantine
Once the seat of an elected magistrate, who was charged the task of administering Rome, Palazzo dei Conservatori dates to the mid-15th century. On the order of Pope Paul III, Michelangelo re-designed the building’s façade and the Piazza del Campidoglio for the visit of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V in 1536. In the courtyard of Palazzo dei Conservatori beautifully carved marble trophies and fragments of the Colossus of Constantine can be found.
The Colossus of Constantine was a figure of Emperor Constantine the Great (280–337); it once sat the western apse of the Basilica of Constantine in Foro Romano. The Colossus is an example of an acrolithic statue, which was a wooden figure, often with its body made from wood (in the case of the Colossus, the body was made up of a brick core and wooden framework, and the wood is believed to have been covered in gilded bronze) with only its head, hands, and feet carved of stone, usually marble. The word comes from the Latin, acrolithus, which is from Greek, akrolithos, having stone extremities.
Using the size of those pieces that have survived as a gauge, the seated, enthroned figure would have been about 40 feet high. The head is more than 8 feet tall (see photo #1), and is each foot is six feet long (see photo #3). To see other photos of the Colossus and the palazzo’s courtyard see my Rome Things-To-Do Tip Palazzo dei Conservatori, the Courtyard, Part I.
The Capitoline Museums are in two buildings arranged around the Piazza del Campidoglio which was designed by no less than Michelangelo himself. At the centre of this square stands a (replica) statue of the emperor Marcus Aurelius which is one of the many immediately recognisable sights of Rome. The two museums are on a single ticket and are linked by a passage beneath the square.
We started our visit to the museums in the Palazzo dei Conservatori, thecourtyard of which is home to a colossal statue of Constantine the Great. There are a lot of statues in here and after a while it can start to feel a bit 'samey' despite the impressive nature of each exhibit if taken individually. One place that does stand out however is the Hall of Marcus Aurelius which has the original of that statue outside in the square as well as a number of other interesting works. It also leads on to the remains of the foundations of the Temple of Jupiter. It's difficult to convey how massive this building must have been, you just have to see it.
On the 2nd floor are a number of rooms with various paintings, most of a religious nature, one outstanding work is a Caravaggio painting of John the Baptist.
You will see a great deal of paintings and sculpture in Rome's museums and galleries. The Capitoline museums are, in my opinion, 2nd only to the Vatican museum in terms of the exhibits they have, but they are far superior to the Vatican in the way they exhibit them. It feels less rushed and there is usually some information about exhibits in English.
The Capitoline Hill was an important sacred site in antiquity. In Medieval times it became the center of guilds and government, but the Farnese Pope Paul III commissioned Michelangelo to plan a new ambitious project: a new monumental piazza, to become the center of political life in Rome.
The project was begun in 1538, and was only completed long after Michelangelo's death, but according to his original design. Michelangelo had some architectural problems: The shape of the piazza is actually trapezoid, and there is a gentle slope of the surface. His ingenious solutions create a beautiful, harmonious space.
This piazza on a hill is one of my most favorite places in Rome. You climb the beautiful, broad Cordonata steps, and little by little the whole elliptical square is revealed to you; symmetrical palaces on both sides, and a beautiful palace in front, all part of one harmonious complex (today they form the Capitoline Museums).
It is of interest that one part of Michelangelo's original plan was not executed until 1940: This is the interlacing 12-point star pattern in oval center of the piazza.
In the center of the ellipse is a majestic equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius, his hand raised. This is a copy of an ancient Roman bronze sculpture, 3.5 meters tall.
Back to Roman times The Senate was settled on the top of the Capitoline Hill (Italians call it Campidoglio). In the ancient times it was a nerve-centre for the city life, nowadays it is the seat of the commune.
Campidoglio is definetelly one of the most beautiful sights in whole of Rome, thanks to the magnificient steps designed by Michelangelo, also known as Cordonata. It is trapezoidal shaped square, unique in the world with the bronze statue of Marco Aurelio right in the center of the system. The peculiar paving for the square was chosen by Michelangelo, referable to an oval built geometry so typical for the Renaissance.
Drawn by Michelangelo, the square and staircase of Campidoglio compose a very harmonic ensemble, that didn't deserve to be "hidden" behind the "monster" of Vittorio Emanuel II monument.
The geometry of the square is carefully planned, and the palaces that surround it, built during the 16th and 17th centuries, respect the master's criteria.
A church - St. Maria in Aracueli - museums in the palaces, and very interesting statues all around, advice you to reserve several hours to its visit. If you can! We couldn't, and that's why Campidoglio remains in my Rome's "to see" agenda.
The "Campidoglio" or Capitoline became my favourite piazza in Rome since the Piazza Navona became so touristy and commercial (see my tip). The arrival by the monumental staircase “Cordonata” drawn by Michel-Angel is a pleasure although the lions, of Egyptian origin, at the entry of the staircase do not project any more wine like “in the good old days”. And then when arriving at the height of the statues of Dioscures one discovers this square also build following a project of Michel-Angelo.
The three palaces are splendid and an amateur of museums like me finds here to enjoy himself (I could not avoid writing 6 reviews about the marvellous collections of the Capitolini museums).
While climbing the stairs I like to see appearing the equestrian statue of Marcus-Aurelius placed there in 1538. Today it is a copy whose restored original is in the Capitoline museums (ref. my tip). The realization of this copy from 1997 called upon elaborate techniques. The restitution of the geometrical shape of the equestrian statue was made through a numerical model.
A splendid discovery is made when following the small streets left or right of the palace of the Senators with the sights on the Foro Romano.
But the pleasure does not stop there; if I want to rest, refresh or nourish myself I go up to the cafeteria "Caffè Capitolino" of the 2nd floor of the museum of the Palazzo dei Conservatori where the Cappuccino is excellent and the sight on Rome superb.
Caffè Capitolino can be reached by a free entrance independent from the museum at piazza Cafarelli (turn right after the stairs and take the short climb). There are tables inside and outside on a terrace. Open: 9 - 20 h. Closed on Mondays
Cordonata Capitolina (pics 1-2) is the famous sloping ramp (actually transversal stripes of stone that create slightly inclined steps) that connects piazza Venezia with Campidoglio. It was built by Michelangelo and features at the bottom 2 small fountains with the sculptures of Egyptian lions on them while at the top of Cordonata you can see 2 sculptures of Castor and Pollux.
We went up the steps to see the Campidoglio square(pic 3) that was also designed by Michelangelo. In the middle of the square you can see a replica of an equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelus, the original can been seen inside the Capitoline Museums that spread out on 3 different buildings that face the square:
1)palazzo Senatorio. It was built in 13th century and housed the archives of ancient Rome. In our days it’s Rome’s City Hall.
2)palazzo dei Conservatori. It was built during the medieval times on the spot where an ancient temple once stood(the same goes for church Santa Maria in Aracoeli next to Campidoglio square)
3)palazzo Nuovo. The “New Palace” was built in 17th century
The Capitoline museum is the oldest public art collection in Europe (it was founded by Pope Sixtus IV in 1471). It has some great sculptures and a lot of portrait paintings (we got bored with them)
The Museum is open Tuesday to Sunday, 9.00-20.00
The entrance fee is 6,5euros
The Vittoriano, Rome's memorial to the father of modern Italy - Vittorio Emanuele II - and arguably the city's most prominent landmark (perhaps only overshadowed by the Colosseum?), looks like a giant white elephant. It is the object of ridicule of many Romans, as well as ordinary tourists for its garishness. Criticisms aside, the memorial houses Italy's version of tomb of the unknown soldier - so it's national importance is never to be underestimated.
Site of the temple of Juno, this brick-covered church looks simple from the outside, but houses great artistic treasures inside - with Pinturicchio's frescoes are main standouts - on top of an ornate gilded ceiling (according to the guide book).
Unfortunately, the church was closed on both times I was there. But that didn't prevent me from having a good cardio climbing up the Aracoeli Staircase, the dramatic 14th-century stairway that leads to the northern summit of the Capitoline Hill on which the church sits.