Rome: Capitoline Hill Walk

Your walking tour continues to Capitoline Hill. Here you’ll see panoramic city views plus art dating back to ancient Rome inside the Capitoline Museums. Then a short distance away is the gorgeous Altare della Patria monument which celebrates a United Italy.

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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 buildings explored in the Encircle Photos gallery called “Rome: Colosseum to 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 which 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.

Via del Tulliano 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 in front of the 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 facing the Palazzo dei Conservatori, the face was altered to resemble a wolf in order to symbolize the Tiber River. His left hand holds a cornucopia while 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 the 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 new 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 then 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 it was created during the 5th century BC while others believe it is 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 completed the Basilica of Maxentius, the largest building in the Roman Forum and, when it was complete in 312, it was also the world’s biggest structure. So it seems fitting he would commission 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 the 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 by Gian Bernini at Capitoline Museums in Rome, Italy

According to Greek mythology, Medusa was once a beautiful woman. But 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 and turned to stone anyone who looked at her. 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

The enormous collection of Medieval and Renaissance art and archeological artifacts from ancient Rome inside the Capitoline Museums 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. It was tracked by numerous Greek heroes but it was Atalanta, a virgin huntress, whose arrow first pierced the beast. 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, and it is 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 the 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 it is not hard to 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 and below him 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 which is symbolic of peace. Similar allegories across the monument represent victory, sacrifice, and strength.

Piazza Venezia 00186 Roma RM, Italy
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16 Dea 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, 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. I assume this is Victoria. Often times throughout the city you will also 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, 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 struck me as odd because part of the military success of Victor Emmanuel II included driving the papal army into Vatican City, an act that got him excommunicated from the church.

Piazza Venezia 00186 Roma RM, Italy
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18 Altare della Patria and Santi Luca e Martina Church in Rome, Italy

The white columned porch with the statue of goddess Victoria riding a four-horse chariot is Altare della Patria, an enormous marble monument to King Vittorio Emanuele II. Refer to the “Rome: Capitoline Hill Walk” gallery on Encircle Photos for more images and information. In back is an elevator that was added in 2007. On top is a wonderful view of the city. In the foreground is Santi Luca e Martina. The Church of Saints Luca and Martina was built in 1669.

Via dell'Arco di Settimio 00186 Roma RM Italy
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