Rome: Capitoline Hill

Capitoline Hill in Rome

Capitoline Hill (Monte Capitolino) belongs to the seven hills on which Ancient Rome was founded. It is not difficult to find: you can walk from the Roman Forum and the Colosseo in 15 to 20 minutes.

Walk around the sights and museums on this hill and you’ll feel the atmosphere of the ancient city!

History of the origins of Capitoline Hill

In the days of ancient Rome, the Capitoline Hill was the site of meetings of the Senate as well as various popular gatherings. It was built in the 5th century BC in honor of the ancient gods Juno, Minerva and Jupiter.

After the fall of the empire, many of the structures on the hill were destroyed and looted. New buildings were built on the foundations of the ancient ruins, most of the area was not used at all after the 5th century.

Reconstruction of the Capitol Square

In 1536 by order of Pope Paul III (Paulus PP III) work began on the reconstruction of the Capitoline Square. The pope made the decision to rebuild it due to the planned arrival of King Charles V (Carolus V).

Michelangelo Buonarroti was appointed as the architect. However, most of the project was not implemented during the lifetime of the great master. Started by Michelangelo work continued by his students.

Completely works were finished by 1654. It is in this form that the square has survived to this day.

What to see

There are several sights concentrated on the Capitol Hill. At the top is Piazza del Campidoglio, which is shaped like a trapeze. At the very center is a bronze statue of Marcus Aurelius, created in the 160s and 180s.

The square is surrounded by several palaces. The main one is the Palazzo Senatorio: the Palazzo dei Conservatori and the Palazzo Nuovo are on either side. All three palaces are included in the Capitoline Museum (Musei Capitolini).

Palazzo Senatori

Originally the Palace of the Senators, built in the 1st century B.C., housed the archives. During the Middle Ages the building was not used at all, until it was restored in the 17th century.

In modern times, the palace is the seat of the City Hall. Visitors can see the museum, which keeps the ancient inscriptions on the stone slabs, Lapidarium, as well as the underground Tabularia.

Capitoline Hill in Rome

Photo: givaga / Shutterstock.com

Palace of Conservators

The Palace of Conservators is not one of the structures of the ancient Roman period: it was built in the 15th century. Judges and senators held meetings here.

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Today the palace houses a museum of busts found during excavations in ancient Rome, and the Pinacoteca, which contains masterpieces by Caravaggio, Rubens, Velázquez and other famous artists.

You can also see the collection of coins and precious jewelry on display in the Capitoline Museum of Coin. A separate room, the Castellani, houses a large number of Greek and Etruscan artifacts.

It is in the Palace of Conservators that the original statue of the she-wolf of the Capitol (Lupa Capitolina), the symbol of ancient Rome, is located. Her copy is located to the left of the main building on a column.

The new palace

The Palazzo Nuovo, built in the 17th century, was designed to be a museum: the long corridors were ideal for exhibits. Today, sculptures from Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome are on display here.

Capitol Museums opening hours

The Palaces on Capitol Hill are open:

  • 9:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. daily;
  • December 24 and 31 from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The museums are closed January 1, May 1, and December 25.

Visiting costs

A single ticket is purchased to visit the Capitol Museums. The cost is 11.50 euros as of 2022.

It is also possible to buy a Capitolini Card, which is valid for 7 days: the price is 16 Euros. Includes the Capitoline Museums, the Centrale Montemartini archaeological museum and the exhibitions L’eredità di Cesare, mosaics from the Capitoline collections.

Tickets can be purchased online at the official website www.museicapitolini.org. You just need to print them out and show them at the ticket office.

Ticket prices and opening hours may vary – check the official website for more information.

Basilica of Santa Maria in Araceli

The Basilica of Santa Maria in Araceli was erected on the site of the former temple of Juno Coin. At first it was a Greek monastery.

In the basilica there is an icon of Our Lady of the 10th century, relics of Saint Helena and a sculpture of the infant Christ. The sculpture is believed to have healing properties.

The basilica has a remarkable carved ceiling.

Basilica of Santa Maria in Araceli

Photo: Mariia Golovianko / Shutterstock.com

Basilica of Santa Maria in Araceli

Photo: maurizio / Shutterstock.com

Hours of operation and costs to visit the basilica

You can view the basilica from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Admission is free.

Mamertine Prison

On the north side of the hill is the Mamertino Prison (Carcere Mamertino), built in the 6th to 4th centuries B.C. It is a two-story building below ground, which was used by ancient Romans as a prison. According to legend, the apostles Peter and Paul were held here before their execution.

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In the 4th century, the prison was closed: numerous pilgrims came here to worship the saints. Later the church of St. Joseph the Carpenter (San Giuseppe dei Falegnami) was built here – in the 16th century.

Insula

At the foot of Capitoline Hill you can see the ruins of Insula. It is an apartment building built in the 2nd century AD for renting apartments. It is not far from the stairs that lead up to the basilica.

The original insula had 5 floors – only 4 have survived. The first floors housed craftsmen’s shops and workshops, while the last floor housed poorer citizens.

How to get to Capitol Hill

The exact address of Capitoline Hill is Piazza del Campidoglio. How to get there:

  • By subway (line B) to Colosseo station;
  • Take buses nos. 30, 51, 81, 83, 85, 118, 170, 628 and 810 to the Ara Coeli-Piazza Venezia stop;
  • Streetcar No. 8 to the Venezia stop.

How to climb the Capitoline Hill

You can climb the hill using the Lorenzio di Simone Andreozzi and Cordonata stairs:

  • The first is quite steep – it leads to the Basilica of Santa Maria in Araceli;
  • The second staircase is flatter and wider: it leads directly to Capitoline Square.

At the foot of the Cordonata are sculptures of Egyptian lions, and at the top are two figures of the sons of Zeus, Castor and Pollux. As you go up the stairs, you’ll notice a bronze statue of the people’s tribune Cola di Rienzo, clad in a hooded cloak and holding a staff.

Tours of Rome

If you want something more interesting than the usual round of the city on the map, then try an unconventional format of sightseeing. Nowadays, unique excursions by locals are becoming more and more popular! After all, who better than a local knows the history and the most unusual places in Rome?

See all the tours and choose the most intriguing one on Tripster.

Capitoline Hill

Capitoline Hill is the birthplace of the brilliant Ancient Roman Empire. This is where the history of the most advanced, most powerful, but infamous civilization that gave the world scientists and philosophers, artists, poets, generals and gladiators began.

This attraction attracts millions of tourists who come to the “Eternal City” to be transported, if only for a moment, to the magnificent past of human civilization.

History

There are a lot of interesting facts about the history of the place. Back in the 5th century B.C. the famous Capitoline Temple was built in honor of Juno Coin, Jupiter, and the goddess Minerva. Many of the structures of the temple complex had been completely destroyed over time, some were burned by barbarians and some were constantly rebuilt, changing their purpose with each reconstruction. In the end Capitoline Square lost its significance and fell into decay.

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The Capitoline Hill owes its second birth to the Spanish Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, who arrived here in 1536. At that time the city was the residence of Pope Paul III, who did not want to show the emperor the famous Capitol in such a dilapidated state. The project of reconstruction of the temple was entrusted to the court architect and artist Michelangelo Buonarroti, but unfortunately, his death did not allow him to realize all his ideas himself. His numerous pupils carried on the work and the Capitol was finally completed only in 1654.

Description

The Capitoline Square resembles a trapeze with a statue of Emperor Marcus Aurelius on horseback, which dates back to Antiquity. On each of the three sides of the square are some of Rome’s most famous architectural gems. These are Palazzo Nuovo, an almost complete duplicate of its Conservative palace, which was used during the Renaissance as a court lodge, and the Palazzo Senatori, which today houses the City Hall of the “Eternal City”.

The twin palaces house several structural subdivisions of the Capitoline Museum complex, which houses unique collections of paintings, sculptures, art, antique decorations, precious jewelry, weapons, household items and coins.

The last side of the square ends with the picturesque Cardonata descent. Its staircase is surmounted by two spectacular statues of Nubian lions, and at the top is a monument of Pollux and Castor, excavated in Pompeii in 1538. Also on the upper platform are sculptures of Constantine emperors, the artistic element of the ancient Roman fountain “Mario’s Trophies” and the Appian Pillars.

Capitoline Hill as well as other sights in Rome are recommended to visit during sightseeing walks around the city. On the Sputnik website you can choose from 12 tours and order them online.

Sights on Capitoline Hill

Senatorial Palace

The structure, built in the 1st century B.C., was used for a long time as an archival repository. But then the documents were moved, and the palace remained empty. Without owners it fell into disrepair, began to deteriorate and only after the reconstruction of the Capitoline Square once again shone.

Since the mid-twentieth century it became the seat of the city authorities of Rome, therefore not all the rooms of the palace are open for tourists but only the Lapidarium, the Tabularium catacombs and the museum, which contains stone steles chronicling the history of Rome since its foundation.

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The Palace of the Conservators.

This monumental structure was inaugurated in the 15th century to hold court sessions and senatorial meetings. Today, during opening hours of the palace you can visit the Pinacoteca, where you can find works of Italian painters, paintings of the Spanish and Flemish schools, and an exhibition of Roman busts. In a separate room is a huge monument to the Capitoline Wolf, who according to legend nurtured Remus and Romulus, the legendary brothers who founded Rome.

The new palace

Constructed in the seventeenth century, the Palazzo replicated almost exactly the older Palace of the Conservators and was set aside by the Roman authorities as a museum. It still performs this function and the halls and galleries of the palace contain many historical and cultural monuments of the past, unique sculptures and priceless paintings.

The buildings listed above are components of the Capitol Museum, so one ticket is required for all exhibitions and rooms. It costs 13€ (reduced admission) and 15€ (all-inclusive ticket). The museum’s schedule is from 9:00 to 20:00 daily.

The Ancient Roman Insula

The Insula is one of the few surviving ancient structures of great historical and cultural value. The building is the prototype of the modern apartment and multi-storey house, where ordinary Romans could rent housing for themselves.

The Insula, built in the second century A.D., is located at the bottom of the hill near the steps leading to the Basilica of the Virgin Mary. It is thought to have had five stories, but only the lower four tiers are extant.

Basilica of the Virgin Mary

An interesting basilica built in honor of the Virgin Mary. It is located on the same place where centuries ago sacrifices were brought to the temple altar of Juno, the supreme goddess of the Roman Pantheon.

According to legend, Emperor Octavian Augustus once had a vision of Our Lady with a child. This event prompted him to build an altar. It must be said that the legend was confirmed by the artifacts found here.

Today the church keeps an icon of the Virgin Mary, which is called miraculous, the relics of Saint Martyr Helen and the tombs of members of many noble families of Rome, decorated with sculptures from the Renaissance period.

Entrance to the Basilica is free and it can be visited any day of the week between 9:00 and 17:30.

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Mamertine Prison

The oldest structure on Capitol Hill is the Mamertine Prison, which dates back four to six centuries to the Basilica of the Virgin Mary. The two-story catacombs still evoke horror, giving an idea of the ghastly conditions in which the ancient prisoners were held.

Legend has it that the first disciples of Christ, Paul and Peter, were held here until they died. In memory of them, an altar was installed and consecrated in the catacombs, which still functions today. After the closure of the casemate, crowds of believers began to flock to the site each year. In the Renaissance period, a church was founded here, the patron saint of which is considered to be Joseph the Carpenter.

You can visit the church on your own, the entrance is free. Opening hours are from 9:00 to 18:30 daily.

Palazzo Venezia

Located on the west side of Capitoline Square, Palazzo Venezia is well known in political circles in Europe. Leading politicians often meet here. At the beginning of the last century the palace was designated as the personal residence of Mussolini, and today within its walls there is the Bernini Museum, where the best works of the artist are exhibited.

Interesting facts

  • Include Silver Street, which begins at the Caesar’s Forum, in your walk on Capitoline Hill. In the Middle Ages, it was home to the shops of artisans who made household items, utensils, and accessories from silver.
  • For a long time it was thought that the monumental Capitoline Wolf was created by the Etruscans. But a restoration carried out several years ago proved that the legendary symbol of Rome was cast much later, at the end of the Middle Ages.
  • The area of the temple, built in honor of Juno, was once a place where silver coins were minted.

Capitol Hours

The official website of the Capitol Museum has information about the opening hours of all the structures that make up the complex. Visiting the square itself is free, but you must pay to enter some museums, galleries, and temples. Photos are allowed in most establishments.

Where is Capitol Hill

The landmark is located at Piazza del Campidoglio. You can get here by metro from Colosseo station. Also you can get by bus №30 and №51, №81, №83, №85, №87 and № 810. Get off at the Ara Coeli-Piazza Venezia station. Location of stops can be found on a map of Rome.

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