See a masterpiece of Michelangelo at Piazza del Campidoglio
Michelangelo was one of the greatest artists and architects the world has ever seen. See some of his last works at the political powerhouse of Piazza del Campidoglio.
- See the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius as it would have looked in its heyday, standing proudly overlooking the city.
- Visit the Capitoline Museums, the oldest museum in the world.
- Admire the handiwork of one of history’s greatest minds, Michelangelo, in the design of both the palaces that surround it and the piazza layout itself.
What to see and do
Piazza del Campidoglio is one of the most important and notable piazzas in Rome. This is what you can expect to see during your visit:
The city hall and former seat of the senator of Rome is the building that underwent the most radical change during the redesign orchestrated by Michelangelo.
To better match the other two palaces surrounding the square – one of which he commissioned to be identical to the other – Michelangelo redesigned the facade of the building and added a double ramp of stairs leading to the entrance.
The site of Palazzo Senatorio has played an active role in Rome’s history for millennia. First the site of an ancient temple of Veiove, then a state record office in the shape of the Tabularium, and finally a city hall.
Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius
Standing proudly in the centre of the Piazza del Campidoglio’s concentric paving design, the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius looks down over the city of Rome.
Though this statue is a replica – the original was placed inside the Capitoline Museums to preserve it – the effect is still the same. The bronze statue towers over the piazza, carving out an impressive image to people reaching the square. This was an intentional move, as the statue was placed there to highlight the history and power of Rome to outside visitors.
It is the oldest intact design of a bronze statue in Rome. It survived the indignity of being melted down thanks to a case of mistaken identity; it was believed to be Constantine, the first Christian emperor, and not Marcus Aurelius, so was spared. You can still see the original statue inside the museum.
As for the floor design that helps draw attention to the statue, it was supposedly crafted to represent the twelve-pointed star in a reference to the constellations. The Michelangelo design only adds to the symmetry so apparent on Piazza del Campidoglio.
Comprised of two palaces, the Palazzo dei Conservatori and Palazzo Nuovo, the Capitoline Museums bring a lovely symmetry to the Piazza del Campidoglio.
The oldest museum in the world houses an impressive collection of artifacts and statues from antiquity. Most famous of all is the Capitoline Wolf; the bronze statue of Romulus and Remus suckling from the she-wolf Lupa which has become an iconic symbol of Rome. Other memorable works include the Dying Gaul, ruins of the Colossus of Constantine, and the original bronze statue of Marcus Aurelius.
Ignoring their contents, the buildings themselves are worth admiring. It is hard to find a design of Michelangelo’s that wouldn’t impress, but the symmetry of the grandeur around Piazza del Campidoglio is particularly astonishing.
This wide sloping staircase leads you up to the Piazza del Campidoglio with a procession of classical statues.
Michelangelo was aware of Pope Paul III’s plans to impress foreign leaders and emissaries with the new piazza. The staircase leading up to the square had to emphasise its might and beauty. With wide-ramped stairs suitable for equestrian use and a collection of marble statues lining the way, it is a design made to impress.
Most notable are the statues of Castor and Pollux, brothers in Roman and Greek mythology, which guard the top of the stairs.
Piazza del Campidoglio is very centrally located, sitting on top of one of Rome’s seven hills; Capitoline Hill. It is situated at the end of the Roman Forum, and a short walk from Piazza Venezia.
Reaching the piazza by metro will require a fair bit of walking. The nearest stop is at Colosseo (Line B), which is around 10-15 minutes away on foot.
Catching the bus brings you a little closer, with the Piazza Venezia stop just around the corner. Venezia, the nearest tram stop, is about 5 minutes away.
Did you know that: (5 Interesting Facts!)
- Michelangelo died before the piazza was finished. The work was so slow-going that only the staircase of Palazzo Senatorio would be completed before his passing.
- The Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius in the centre of the square is a replica. The original sits inside the Capitoline Museums, where it is protected from the elements.
- Piazza del Campidoglio was designed to face St. Peter’s Basilica instead of the Roman Forum to signify the true centre of the city.
- The two palaces on either side of the piazza, Palazzo dei Conservatori and Palazzo Nuovo, form the Capitoline Museums; the oldest museum in the world.
- The geometric paving, also designed by Michelangelo, was not finished until 1940, when it was completed upon the orders of Benito Mussolini.
Piazza del Campidoglio as we know it today took shape during the Renaissance period, but the history of the area started long before then.
These are the most important events in the piazza’s history:
- 6th century BC. The Temple of Jupiter is constructed, cementing the importance of Capitoline Hill in Roman society.
- 78BC. The Tabularium is completed and is used to house the public records and laws of Rome. Capitoline Hill is both a religious and pointless focal point in Ancient Rome.
- 14th century. After years of neglect and time spent as a grazing paddock for goats, the Palazzo Senatorio is built on the edge of the square. It is used as the city hall and the seat of the senator of Rome.
- 1471. Pope Sixtus IV orders the creation of a protected collection of ancient artifacts, placing them inside the Palazzo dei Conservatori. This is the first step to forming the Capitoline Museums.
- 1536. The Holy Roman Emperor Charles V is expected to visit Rome. Eager to impress, Pope Paul III commissions the replacement design of the base of Marcus Aurelius’ statue by Michelangelo.
- 1537. Pope Paul III is so impressed with the work that he requests the entire piazza be redesigned by Michelangelo.
- 17th century. The square is all-but completed. The three palaces are constructed and redesigned according to the blueprints of Michelangelo.
- 1940. The geometric paving design is completed.
- 1981. The bronze statue of Marcus Aurelius is moved inside the Capitoline Museums in order to preserve it. A replica statue is mounted in its place.
Address: Campidoglio square, , 00186 Roma, Italy · view larger map