Campidoglio (3)

There is no better place to start exploring Rome than the Campidoglio. This Capitoline hill was of special importance in the classical era. It was here where some of the most important Roman temples were built and where the Caesars celebrated their victories. However, with the passing of time the area deteriorated until presenting quite a deplorable state.

They say that in 1536, before the visit to Rome of Emperor Charles V of Spain, also known as Charles V, Emperor of the Holy Roman-Germanic Empire, Pope Paul III felt so embarrassed about the muddy streets that surrounded the Capitol, that he asked Michelangelo to design the pavements and restore the façades of the place. This was how Michelangelo planned this luxurious civil centre of Rome, although the fact is it never became more than just a set of plans, since the works progressed so slowly that others were commissioned to complete the constructions.

Michelangelo’s idea was to turn the space of the Roman Forum towards the Vatican, the new heart of Rome. This is why the square is closed by three palaces and leaves the side facing San Pietro open, placing just a line of statues.

The best way of getting there is through the Cordonata, the wide stairway that goes up to the square, and which is flanked by two Egyptian lions. The most modern statue on the left of the Cordonata shows the place where Cola di Rienzo was executed, a 14th-century orator whose ambition was to restore the Roman Republic. Once you reach the end of the stairway, you will be able to see the two massive marble statues of “Castor and Pollux”. 

The two buildings on either side of the square are the Palazzo Nuovo and the Palazzo dei Conservatori. These two buildings form the Capitoline Museums, which house the splendid collection of classical sculpture that the popes in the 15th century began to accrue.

The third building that makes up the square is the Palazzo Senatorio, pink in colour, built in several stages during the 13th and 14th centuries. It was the selfsame Michelangelo who designed the converging stairways and the fountain. This is the only building of the three that is used today for political purposes, since it is the current home of Rome City Council. 

In the centre of the square you will be able to admire one of the most important sculptures of classical art, the equestrian statue of the emperor and philosopher Marc’Aurelio, one of whose maxims was: “Our life is what our thoughts make of it”. This statue is, in fact, a copy, since the original is inside the Palazzo Nuovo. As a curiosity, you should be aware that for a long time it was believed to be the statue of Constantine, the emperor who converted to Christianity.

If you look at the statue, you will see that Marc’Aurelio raises his hand in what seems to be a gesture of mercy. However, it is said that beneath the raised hoof of the horse there had been the head of a barbarian. 

Another story surrounding this statue is linked to the fact that it was originally covered in gold. Due to this, the Romans stated that when the gold appeared again it would be the sign that at last the day of the Final Judgement had come. 

To conclude, we recommend, if you can, you make two visits to the Campidoglio: one during the day and the other at subset, to appreciate the fantastic lighting of the place.

Stroll around one of the most elegant spots in the world. Also, just think… you are in the centre where Ancient Rome was founded and from where the “Grand Empire” was governed".

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