Capitoline Hill to Imperial Forums Walk

After exploring the Colosseum and Roman Forum, your walking tour continues to Capitoline Hill and the Imperial Forums. Here you will enjoy panoramic city views plus art dating back to ancient Rome inside the Capitoline Museums. A short distance away is the gorgeous Altare della Patria. The monument celebrates a United Italy. Then you will explore the Imperial Forums of emperors Caesar, Augustus and Trajan. At the end of your tour, you will be about a block from the Colosseum.

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1 Colosseum and Forum Panorama from Capitoline Hill in Rome, Italy

We start our walking tour of Capitoline Hill by looking back eastward at some of the ancient landmarks explored in the Encircle Photos travel guide called “Colosseum to Roman Forum Walk.” On the left is the Colosseum’s western façade (80 AD). Visually next to it are the ruins of Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine. It was built in the Roman Forum in 312 AD. The tall campanile is the bell tower of Santa Francesca Romana (10th century), the white building beside it. The dome of Santi Luca e Martina is on the right. When it was constructed during the mid-7th century, the church was only dedicated to Saint Martina, the patron saint of Rome. We will now explore the Capitoline Museums.

Scala dell'Arce Capitolina, 12, 00186 Roma RM, Italy
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2 Tiber River God Sculpture at Capitoline Museums in Rome, Italy

This marble statue is one of two river gods flanking a fountain on a grand staircase designed by Michelangelo. It is located in front of Palazzo Senatorio which is part of the Capitoline Museums. The sculpture represented the Tigris River when it was first installed at the Baths of Constantine during the 2nd century. Before it was moved to Palazzo dei Conservatori, the face was altered to resemble a wolf in order to symbolize the Tiber River. His left hand holds a cornucopia. Below his right elbow are images of the infants Remus and Romulus.

Piazza del Campidoglio, 1, 00186 Roma RM, Italy
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3 Capitoline Museums in Rome, Italy

The Palazzo dei Conservatori, which was built in the Middle Ages, is one of three archeological museums located in former palaces on Capitoline Hill. They encircle Piazza del Campidoglio. The Palace of Conservators, along with Palazzo Senatorio and this square, were all designed or modified by Michelangelo during the 16th century. On the left is a 1981 reproduction of the Marcus Aurelius equestrian monument. He was the Roman emperor from 161 until 180. The 175 AD original is housed in the Sala Marco Aurelio, a glass wing of the Capitoline Museums.

Piazza del Campidoglio, 1, 00186 Roma RM, Italy
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4 Capitoline Wolf Sculpture at Capitoline Museums in Rome, Italy

According to mythology, the twin brothers Romulus and Remus were fathered by Mars, the god of war, but cast into the Tiber River after birth in 771 BC. They were rescued and suckled by a she-wolf, fed by a woodpecker and raised by a shepherd. In 753 BC, they quarreled and Remus was killed. Romulus proceeded to establish a new city on the Palatine Hill and named it Rome. The Capitoline Wolf is the most iconic symbol of this legend. Some claim the statue was created during the 5th century BC. Others believe it dates from the 13th century AD. It is located on the second floor of the Palazzo dei Conservatori which is part of the Capitoline Museums.

Piazza del Campidoglio, 1, 00186 Roma RM, Italy
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5 Colossus of Constantine Marble Hand at Capitoline Museums in Rome, Italy

In the courtyard of Palazzo dei Conservatori, which is one of the Capitoline Museums, are a few remaining body parts from a 40 foot statue called Colossus of Constantine. Displayed alongside the head of Roman Emperor Constantine I is his right hand with its index finger pointed up in the classic “Number 1” position. Curiously, there is no left hand but two right hands. The marble sculpture dates back to 315 AD.

Piazza del Campidoglio, 1, 00186 Roma RM, Italy
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6 Colossus of Constantine Marble Head at Capitoline Museums in Rome, Italy

While a Roman emperor from 306 to 337, Constantine the Great commisioned the Basilica of Maxentius, the largest building in the Roman Forum. When finished in 312, it was also the world’s biggest structure. So, it seems fitting he would also order a 40 foot high enthroned statue of himself for the west apse. Only portions of the marble Colossus of Constantine remain at Musei Capitolini. This eight foot head can be found in the inner courtyard of Palazzo dei Conservatori.

Piazza del Campidoglio, 1, 00186 Roma RM, Italy
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7 Cityscape from Terrazza Caffarelli at Capitoline Museums in Rome, Italy

When it is time for a break from your walking tour around Capitoline Hill, then head towards the Coffee Capitol cafeteria on the top floor of the Capitoline Museums. The food is not great and it tends to be crowded. However, the huge attraction is this gorgeous view of Rome’s cityscape from Terrazza Caffarelli. You will be amazed as you admire all of the domes.

Piazzale Caffarelli, 4, 00186 Roma RM, Italy
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8 Medusa Bust at Capitoline Museums in Rome, Italy

According to Greek mythology, Medusa was once a beautiful woman. When she disavowed her chastity and married Poseidon, the god of the sea, she was turned into an ugly greenish gorgon. She had poisonous snakes for hair. Anyone who looked at her was turned to stone. This marble bust at the Hall of Geese (Sala delle Oche) at Palazzo dei Conservatori was sculpted by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in 1648. In current times, Medusa symbolizes female rage. She is also the logo for Versace, the high fashion company headquartered in Milan, Italy.

Piazza del Campidoglio, 1, 00186 Roma RM, Italy
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9 Conservator’s Apartment Carved Ceiling at Capitoline Museums in Rome, Italy

There is a vast assortment of Medieval and Renaissance art and archeological artifacts from ancient Rome inside the Capitoline Museums. The collection began in 1471 when Pope Sixtus IV donated numerous bronze statues. Some of them are located in the Conservator’s Apartment. These rooms are in the oldest section of the Palace of the Conservators (Palazzo dei Conservatori). But in your rush to see these, as well as the frescos and tapestries, make sure to look up. You will be rewarded with a view of this ornately carved ceiling. The panels portray scenes from Roman history. In the center is the she-wolf nursing Remus and Romulus.

Piazza del Campidoglio, 1, 00186 Roma RM, Italy
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10 Colossal of Constantine Bronze Head at Capitoline Museums in Rome, Italy

Constantine I was called Constantine the Great for several reasons. Prior to becoming a Roman emperor, he was a successful military leader in several civil wars. During his reign from 306 to 337, he was the first ruler to embrace Christianity. He also established Constantinople (modern Istanbul in Turkey) as a Roman capitol city. During the next 800 years it would grow to become Europe’s richest city. This mammoth bronze sculpture of his head is from the 4th century. It is displayed in the Capitoline Museums’ Palazzo dei Conservatori.

Piazza del Campidoglio, 1, 00186 Roma RM, Italy
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11 Faceless Marble Sarcophagus at Capitoline Museums in Rome, Italy

The Capitoline Museums display several sarcophagi. This 15th century coffin from the Italian town of Vicovaro has the classic Calydonian Hunt scene carved into marble. The Calydonian Boar was a monster from Greek mythology. The creature was tracked unsuccessfully by several Greek heroes. Atalanta, a virgin huntress, was the first to pierce the beast with her arrow. It was then speared by Meleager. Notice the man and women laying side-by-side. The faces would be carved in when the sarcophagus was purchased.

Piazza del Campidoglio, 1, 00186 Roma RM, Italy
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12 Castor and Pollux Statues with Church of the Cesù Dome in Rome, Italy

Dioskouri were mythological twins. Upon the death of Castor (on the right) his brother Pollux asked their father Zeus, the Greek king of all gods, to bring them together again for eternity. The wish was granted by becoming the heavenly constellation of Gemini. These statues were sculpted around 200 AD. They once stood in the Temple of Castor and Pollux in the Roman Forum. After a significant restoration in 1584, they were placed on either side of the Cordonata ramp which leads to the Capitoline Museums. In between them in this photo is the dome of the Church of the Cesù. Built in 1580, it has two distinctions: it is the mother church for the Society of Jesus, commonly called Jesuits. It is also the first building with a Baroque façade.

Piazza del Campidoglio, 1, 00186 Roma RM, Italy
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13 Quadriga Atop Altare della Patria in Rome, Italy

As you stand in Piazza del Campidoglio surrounded by the Capitoline Museums, it is easy to see this prominent white building with Corinthian columns. This is the western end of Altare della Patria. On top is a bronze horse-drawn chariot. La Quadriga dell’Unità is one of two statues of Victoria, the Roman goddess of Victory. As you walk down a large staircase/ramp called Cordonata and leave the Capitoline Hill, wind your way around Via del Teatro di Marcello for a full view of this impressive monument.

Piazza Venezia 00186 Roma RM, Italy
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14 Altare della Patria Frontal View in Rome, Italy

The Altare della Patria or Altar of the Fatherland monument celebrates the military successes of Victor Emmanuel II during the Wars of Italian Unification. Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II is enormous, almost the size of four football fields. Designed in a Neoclassical style by Giuseppe Sacconi, it was inaugurated in 1911 on the 50th anniversary of the Kingdom of Italy. However, the countless statues and reliefs carved into its marble façade were not finished until 1935. Inside of the country’s largest memorial is a museum dedicated to the Italian Unification. It is called Museo Centrale del Risorgimento.

Piazza Venezia 00186 Roma RM, Italy
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15 Equestrian Statue at Altare della Patria, in Rome, Italy

This bronze equestrian statue by Emilio Gallori represents King Vittorio Emanuele II. He is known as Padre della Patria or Father of the Fatherland for unifying Italy in 1861. Behind him is a chariot with the winged goddess of Victory. Below are reliefs carved in Botticino marble. Look closely at the female figure on the right below the horse’s feet. She is holding a laurel. This symbolizes peace. Similar allegories across the monument represent victory, sacrifice, and strength.

Piazza Venezia 00186 Roma RM, Italy
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16 Goddess Roma Statue at Altare della Patria in Rome, Italy

In the center of Altare della Patria, and above the Eternal Flame at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, is this sculpture of Roma. She is the goddess who personifies the city. The deity from Greek mythology dates back to 195 B.C. She is typically shown as a helmeted warrior carrying a sword. In this statue designed by Angelo Zanelli Brescia, Dea Roma is also holding a winged figure standing on an orb. Most likely this is Victoria. Often times throughout the city you will see Roma’s likeness sitting on a throne.

Piazza Venezia 00186 Roma RM, Italy
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17 Winged Lion at Altare della Patria in Rome, Italy

Flanking the majestic La Scalinata Steps at Altare della Patria are two winged lions. These mythological cats are a common theme in the Bible to represent power and authority. A similar image, known as the Lion of St. Mark, is the symbol for Venice and the Vatican. Including this sculpture on an Italian Unification monument seems odd because part of the military success of Victor Emmanuel II included driving the papal army into Vatican City. This act got him excommunicated from the church.

Piazza Venezia 00186 Roma RM, Italy
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18 Church of Most Holy Name of Mary at Forum of Trajan in Rome, Italy

A short distance away is the Church of Most Holy Name of Mary. It towers over the Column of Trajan at the Forum of Trajan. This Roman catholic church designed by architect Antoine Derizet was finished in 1741. Enshrined on the altar is an icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is considered to have been painted by Luke the Evangelist. The white marble dome of Santissimo Nome di Maria al Foro Traiano is remarkably similar yet much larger than its neighbor, Santa Maria di Loreto. They were constructed 145 years apart.

Foro Traiano, 89, 00187 Roma RM, Italy
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19 Description of Forum of Trajan in Rome, Italy

The legacy of Emperor Trajan (reign 98 to 117 AD) was how his military prowess significantly expanded the Roman Empire. His territory included today’s Britain, across southern Europe to Iraq (then Babylonia) and portions of Northern Africa. To celebrate his success and flaunt his power, he ordered architect Apollodorus of Damascus to create the Forum of Trajan. The resulting civic space was extravagant and expansive, measuring 1,000 by 600 feet … the largest in history! The forum is in ruins yet the foundations remain. In the foreground was an enclosed courtyard. The marble flooring once displayed a gigantic equestrian statue of the emperor (called Equus Traiani) encircled by sculptures of captive enemies and military heroes. On the other side of the arches are rows of columns used to support Basilica Ulpia (the emperor’s middle name). It was a very impressive 555 feet long. Column of Trajan is mostly intact. Its 600 feet of marble carvings tell the stories of the emperor’s military campaigns. The bronze statue of St. Peter at the 125 foot peak replaced the original version of Trajan. On either side were libraries. The two domes are relatively contemporary churches. On the left is Santa Maria di Loreto (Saint Mary of Loreto) built in 1596. On the right is Santissimo Nome di Maria (Most Holy Name of Mary) built in 1741.

Via dei Fori Imperiali, 00186 Roma RM, Italy
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20 Trajan’s Market at Forum of Trajan in Rome, Italy

Adjacent to the Forum of Trajan is Trajan’s Market. This multi-story complex built into Quirinal Hill housed about 150 stores and offices plus warehouses. Think of it as a 1,900 year old shopping mall with commercial space. The main hall inside is supported by intersecting concrete barrel vaults (called groin vaults). This was an extremely innovative design for the early 2nd century AD. Apollodorus of Damascus was the genus architect. He was the same man who created Trajan’s Forum and the Pantheon. Unfortunately, his illustrious career ended abruptly when Emperor Trajan died in 117. After the new emperor Hadrian was offended by a remark of Apollodorus, the architect was banished. Some historians believed he was also executed.

Via Quattro Novembre, 94, 00187 Roma RM, Italy
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21 Temple Mars Ultor at Forum of Augustus in Rome, Italy

Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC. Gaius Octavius Thurinus, his adopted son, vowed to avenge his death. He, along with Mark Anthony, launched the civil war called the Battle of Philippi. After their victory, a triumvirate of leaders divided the spoils (Roman Republic). This arrangement was short lived. By 27 BC, Octavius consolidated power, formed the new Roman Empire and became Emperor Augustus, a role he held for 40 years. To celebrate his success, he commissioned the Forum of Augustus (located next to Trajan’s Market). The centerpiece was the Temple of Mars Ultor (Mars the Avenger). Now only four of the Carrara marble columns remain upright. The forum was also filled with statues. The largest was of Augustus. Over 100 more portrayed the likeness of men who helped form the new empire. Other carvings showed members of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. This family produced five emperors from 27 BC until the death of Nero in 68 AD.

Piazza del Grillo, 1, 00184 Roma RM, Italy
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22 History of Forum of Caesar in Rome, Italy

Julius Caesar was a member of the First Triumvirate (60 – 53 BC). This arrangement placed the power of the Roman Republic in the hands of three men. He later had a short reign as the sole dictator (49 to 44 BC). He used his wealth and influence to buy a large tract of land adjacent to the Roman Forum. The ensuing project became the first of the Imperial Forums built by various Roman leaders from 46 BC through 113 AD. Foro di Cesare measures 525 by 246 feet. You are looking at the southwest portico that encircled the forum’s central courtyard. It once contained an equestrian sculpture of Caesar called Equus Caesaris. In the upper right corner is the Vittorio Emanuele II Monument, also called the Altar of the Fatherland.

Via dei Fori Imperiali, 00187 Roma RM, Italy
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23 Temple of Venus Genetrix at Forum of Caesar in Rome, Italy

Julius Caesar claimed to be a descendant of Venus, the Roman goddess of love, beauty, sex and victory. After his victory at the Battle of Pharsalus (48 BC), he promised to build a temple in the deity’s honor at Forum of Caesar. He portrayed her as Venus Genetrix, meaning the mother of his ancestors. The temple was destroyed and rebuilt in the early 2nd and late 3rd centuries. Only three of the original 16 columns of the temple still stand. In the background is Tabularium. This government structure was constructed in 78 BC to house city records and offices.

Via dei Fori Imperiali, 00187 Roma RM, Italy
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24 Dome of Santi Luca e Martina in Rome, Italy

After Saint Martina was brutally martyred in 228 for refusing to forsake her Christianity, she became the patron saint of Rome. The original church dedicated to her was built overlooking the Roman Forum during the 7th century. Nearly 1,000 years later, Baroque painter Pietro da Cortona championed the church’s reconstruction. During his excavation work in 1634, he claimed to have uncovered the relics of Saint Martina. Shown here is the hemispherical dome. The upper drum is constructed from travertine limestone. Since 1589, the Catholic church has also honored San Luca (Saint Luke) when it was gifted to a society of artists named Accademia di San Luca.

Via della Curia, 2, 00184 Roma RM, Italy
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