In ancient Rome, the Capitoline was a place of considerable political and spiritual importance.

At the top of the hill were two important temples: one dedicated to Jupiter Capitolinus (a descendant of Jupiter, the Roman equivalent of Zeus) and another to Juno Moneta (now covered by the church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli) which housed Rome’s mint.

Today the Capitoline still wields political clout as home to the city council.

Piazza del Campidoglio is regarded by many (me included) as Rome’s most beautiful square. It is the magnificent centre piece of the Capitoline Hill.

The best way to appproach it, according to my Lonely Planet guide and so I followed this advice,  is via the Cordonata, Michaelangelo’s graceful staircase that leads up from busy Piazza d’Aracoeli.

The staitrcase is guarded at the bottom by two ancient Egyptian granite lions and at the top by statues of Castor and Pollux, salvaged from the Jewish Ghetto in the 16th century.

At the top of the stairs, the square is bordered by three palazzi: Palazzo Nuovo to the left, Palazzo Senatorio straight ahead and Palazzo dei Conservatori on the right.

Together Palazzo Nuovo and Palazzo dei Conservatori house the Capitoline Museums, and Palazzo Senatorio the city council.

Michaelo “authored” their facades and designed the piazza’s pavement for Pope Paul III in 1538. Work on the square continued until the mid-17th century apparently!

In the centre of the square is a copy of an equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius. Apparently, the restored original has been behind glass in Palazzo Nuovo since 1981.

Sources:

  • Rome, City Guide 2006, pp 88-90 (Lonely Planet).
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