To the left of the City Hall, you will see a little noticed column but an important symbol of Rome: the Capitoline She-Wolf!
This is a stone copy of an original Etruscan bronze that you can see inside the Museum. The figure of Romulus and Remus were added later.
Here is the legend of Romulus, remus and the foundation of Rome.
Amulius was a wicked king that was ruling the kingdom of Alba Longo. He had a brother, Numitor that he fought and sent into exile. Numitor's daughter, Rhea Silvia, was forced to become a Vestal and thus, not allow to marry or have children. Mars the God of War, saw her and fell in love. Soon enough, Rhea Silvia gave birth to twin boys. Furious, Amulius ordered the babies to be thrown in the Tiber. the slave that had to carry the task couldn't do it and just left the babies' basket to float. A She-wolf that had just lost her cubs saw the basket and out of curiosity, reached for it and saved the boys. She looked after them for a while, the babies feeding on her milk. One day, a sheperd called Faustulus saw the boys with the wolf and brought them back home. He and his wife adopted them and named them Romulus and Remus. When grown, the boys became sheperds like their adopted father.
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.
The Campidoglio was Rome's most important hill. The centre of religious life and the site where the most important things happened. The Campidoglio is now 2 hills, one on where the church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli is (formerly the Ara Capitolina), and the other where the temple of Jupiter Optimo Maximo was. The piazza del Campidoglio is now Rome's centre of public administration, and it was beautifuly designed by Michaelangelo for Pope Paul III.
This piazza is surrounded by 3 buildings (New Palace, Palace of the Conservatory and Senatorial Palace), and it has ha beautiful statue of Marcus Aurelius in the middle, along many other statues. This statue is said to be the model for every equestrian statue in Rome.
The Capitol, once sacred to the Romans and the destination of the triumphal processions of victorious generals, is today the headquarters of the Mayor and the Municipality of Rome. Piazza del Campidoglio was masterful designed by Michelangelo for Pope Paul III. Michelangelo also designed the two palaces on the opposite sides of the square, creating a divergence which widens a perspective to the Palazzo Senatorio.
“Be content with what you are, and wish not change; nor dread your last day, nor long for it.”
— Marcus Aurelius (AD 121 - 180)
In 1536 Michelangelo designed this magnificent stage set to crown the Capitoline, the smallest of Ancient Rome’s seven hills; but the most important because it was the seat of power.
Michelangelo was inspired by Rome’s two millennia of glorious history that revolved around this hilltop. Being a sculptor, he used it to showcase great Classical Roman statues, most notably the equestrian bronze of Emperor Marcus Aurelius that stands at its center. The square you see today is Rome’s first planned piazza. It is just as Michelangelo originally conceived it — except that the Marcus Aurelius bronze is a copy; the original, with its gold leaf partially intact, is safe inside the near-by Museo Capitolino.
In AD 166 an unknown sculptor produced the bronze equestrian sculpture of Marcus Aurelius, Emperor and philosopher, in the fifth year of his rule (AD 161-180). He was the Ancient Roman who best typified what today we call a Renaissance Man. The emperor must have ‘spoken’ to Michelangelo across fifteen centuries; both were multi-talented men. Unlike most similar sculptures, this bronze of Marcus Aurelius escaped being melted down because it was mistakenly thought to be of Constantine the Great, Rome’s first Christian emperor. It was given a place of honor beside Rome’s cathedral, St. John in Lateran.
The Capitoline Hill, the highest of the seven hills of Rome, has held a key place in the city almost since Rome's beginning. It was the location of the the ancient Temple of Jupiter, first built in 509 B.C., which was the most important temple in ancient Rome. This would be the end point of the triumphal processions granted to victorious Roman generals. The temple was destroyed and rebuilt several times, but the final version was destroyed for good in the fifth century A.D., and very little now remains.
In 1536 Michelangelo was commissioned to create a beautiful piazza on the hill, which would once again be the location of a grand triumphal procession. This one, by orders of the pope, was to be for the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V as a show of gratitude for his victories over the armies of Suleiman the Magnificent of the Ottoman Empire. In fact the procession never happened because the piazza was not finished in time; much of the work was done in the 17th century, after Michelangelo's death, and the paving he designed was not put in place until 1940 (on the orders of Mussolini).
Michelangelo designed new facades for the two already existing buildings, the Palazzo Senatorio and the Palazzo dei Conservatori. He then designed an altogether new building, known as the Palazzo Nuovo, to mirror the Palazzo dei Conservatori on the other side of the piazza. The twelve-pointed design in the floor represented the twelve signs of the zodiac. It is rather difficult to make out without a bird's eye view from above, but you can see the design on the back of the fifty-cent euro coin. Finally, there's the Cordonata, a monumental but graceful stairway with steps of such small height and so far apart that it's more of a ramp than a staircase. This was to allow Charles V and those in his procession to ascend to the top on horseback.
We had just finished our adventure through the vestige of the Roman Forum and took the stair up past the Arch of Septimus Severus and wound up at Capitoline Hill. The Capitoline Hill is the smallest of Rome's seven hills, but it was the religious and political center of the city since its foundation more than 2500 years ago. Several important temples were built here: the Temple of Juno Moneta, the Temple of Virtus and the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maxims Capitolinus, the most important temple in ancient Rome. The hill and the temple of Jupiter in particular were the symbols of Rome as Caput Mundi, capital of the world.
During the middle ages, the site was in such bad shape that Pope Paul III Farnese commissioned Michelangelo to design a new square, and Michelangelo responded by designing a highly original piazza whose surface is covered by an intricate geometric pattern. He added a graceful ramp, known as the Cordonata, leading up to the piazza. He rebuilt the facade of the fortress built on the ruins of the Tabularum, a building that became the home of the Senate of Rome. He had the facade of the Palazzo dei Conservatori reworked and left plans for another building opposite, the Palazzo Nuovo, which was built in 1654 with a facade reflecting the Palazzo dei Conservatori.
Michelangelo’s piazza with the Senatorial Palace is seen in the picture. On the right is the Palazzo dei Conservatori courtyard where you'll find a number of ancient sculptures, including a giant head of the emperor Constantine from the basilica of Maxentius. There is also a dedicatory inscription from the Arch of Claudius that celebrates the emperor's conquest of Britain in 43 CE. Across the piazza the Palazzo Nuovo houses the Capitoline Museum which features a number of beautiful and famous ancient sculptures including the "Dying Gaul". At the centre of the piazza is an equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius, which is a reproduction of the one that stood here for centuries only to be removed a decade ago for restoration and preservation
The famous bronze statue of Marcus Aurelius (A.D. 80) is the only surviving example of the many equestrian statues that adorned Rome.
It used to stand in the centre of the square until 1980, when was moved to the Capitoline Museum so that now you can find a perfect copy of it in the middle of the square.
In the middle of the Campidoglio you can find this Marcus Aurelius sculpture. It is not the original one, since that it placed in the Palazzo Nuovo after restauration works. There was quite some pigeon poo on it (damn pigeons...) The statue is one of only a handful of ancient bronze statues not to have been melted down. It suvived because it was incorrectly identified as Constatine, the first Christian emperor.
Capitol Hill Square is the home of the city's government. The square was designed by Michelangelo in 1530. The focal point of the square is the statue of Marcus Aurelius (a reproduction of the statue, the original one is inside the Capitoline Museum).
The long staircase that takes you to the square is called the Cordonata. At the top of the staircase are the statues of Castor and Pollux.
There are 3 important buildings in the square: Palazzo Nouvo, Palazzo dei Conservatori and Palazzo Senatorio. In front of the Palazzo Senatorio there is a very nice fountain where you will also see the statue of Lady Rome.
Construction of the square started in 1546 but only the staircase at the entrance of the Palazzo Senatorio was completed when Michelangelo died in 1564. The project was finished in the 17th century.
“Yesterday, at noon, we set out for the Capitol, and stopped to look at the statues of Castor and Pollux, which look down the ascent. Castor and his brother seem to me to have heads disproportionately large, and are not so striking, in any respect, as such great images ought to be.”
— from the 1858 “French and Italian Note-Books” of Nathaniel Hawthorne
To reach the Piazza del Campidoglio, that was designed and built by Michelangelo between 1536 and 1546, the best way is to take the Cordonata. This hybrid of a set of steps and a ramp that lead to the piazza makes the ascent of Rome’s Capitoline Hill, the highest and holiest of the city’s original seven hills, a pleasant go of it.
And at the top of the Cordonata, as if guarding the entrance to Michelangelo’s piazza, are the loving twin brothers, Castor and Pollux, the eternal twins, who were placed by Jupiter in the sky as the Gemini.
The Greeks and Romans worshiped these twins as the protectors of business, travel and hospitality, and they were Rome’s special guardians. Castor stands on the left and Pollux on the right; they were found when excavations were made for building the walls of the Jewish Ghetto and were placed here in 1583.
The Campidoglio or Capitol Hill used to be the centre of government in Ancient Roman times. Nowadays it's the seat of the city's municipal authorities. The square was designed by Michelangelo in 1536, but when he died in 1546 only the two stairs to the Palazzo Senatorio were finished. It wasn't untill the 17th century before the piazza was finally finished.
During the day the piazza is very crowded because the Capitoline Museums are on the square too. If you don't want to visit the museum or just want to make some beautiful pictures of the square without all the tourists come here some time before sunset (in spring and summer), most if the square will be empty and the sun shines right on the square which gives you very good photo opportunities.
At the rear end of the Campidoglio is the Palazzo Senatorio. Beautiful stairs are leading up to the entrance door. In the 12th century the palazzo was used by the Roman Senate, but nowadays it houses the mayor's offices. A tunnel connects the building with the Palazzo Nuovo and the Palazzo dei Conservatori.
The Campidoglio is atop the Capitoline Hill, the site of the major Roman temples to Jupiter and Juno, the king and queen of the Roman gods. The Capitoline Hill, with its important religious and political functions, is the only one in Rome which has maintained its role over the centuries. The current layout of the square is based on the design Michelangelo drew up for Pope Paul III Farnese, with construction undertaken by various artists up to 1651 when the Palazzo Nuovo was built. To the left and right of the square are two interesting museums (one admission for both.) At the rear of the square is the Palazzo Senatorio, the center of the Roman municipal government (City Hall).
Museums: Weekdays 9 a.m.- 2 p.m.; Holidays 9 a.m.-1 p.m.; Tuesdays and Saturdays also 5 p.m.- 11 p.m.; Closed Mondays.
Situated on the Capitoline hill, which has always been the privileged seat of divinity and power. In the middle of the square, designed by Michelangelo (have you ever heard about him?) stands the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius. Actually this is a copy, because the original one is in a museum. Campidoglio is also the house of Rome Mayor, and sometime you can meet some happy "just married" people having chance to receive the official blessing to get married by the Mayor in flesh and blood!
froma Campidoglio you also have a beautiful sight of the Roman Forum.