Giuseppe Conte

Piazza del Campidoglio: Everything You Need to Know

A comprehensive guide to Piazza del Campidoglio, delving into its history, significance, and visitor information.

Piazza del Campidoglio in Rome


Did you know that the Piazza del Campidoglio, the square on the top of the Capitoline Hill, was the first modern square to be designed in Rome? Or that it was the seat of the Roman Senate, the government base of ancient Rome, and the site of numerous religious shrines? If you want to learn more about this fascinating place, its history, its secrets, and its legends, read on.

Historical Context

The Capitoline Hill, one of the seven hills of Rome, has been a sacred and political center since the founding of the city. According to legend, it was here that Romulus and Remus were suckled by the she-wolf, a symbol of Rome. It was also here that the Sabines, a neighboring tribe, were welcomed by Romulus after he kidnapped their women. The Sabines later attacked the city, but were stopped by the intervention of the Sabine women, who pleaded for peace between their husbands and fathers.

The hill was also home to several temples dedicated to Jupiter, Juno, Minerva, and other gods. The most important was the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus, built in the 6th century BC by the Etruscan king Tarquinius Priscus. It was the largest temple in Rome and the site of many ceremonies and rituals. The hill also housed the Tabularium, the official records office of ancient Rome, where the laws and decrees were stored.

In the Middle Ages, the hill fell into decay and became a fortress for various noble families. It was also used as a prison and a place of execution. In 1536, Pope Paul III decided to renovate the hill for the visit of Emperor Charles V. He commissioned Michelangelo to design a new square that would face St. Peter's Basilica, instead of the Roman Forum. Michelangelo also redesigned the façades of the existing buildings: the Palazzo Senatorio (the Senatorial Palace), which became the city hall; the Palazzo dei Conservatori (the Palace of the Conservators), which became a museum; and the Palazzo Nuovo (the New Palace), which was built as a symmetrical counterpart to the Palazzo dei Conservatori.

Michelangelo also created a complex geometric pattern for the pavement of the square, with a star at its center. He placed a bronze equestrian statue of Emperor Marcus Aurelius in the middle of the square, as a symbol of Rome's imperial glory. The statue is now a replica; the original is preserved in the Capitoline Museums. Michelangelo died before he could see his project completed; it was finished by his successors in the following centuries.

Lesser-Known Stories

The Piazza del Campidoglio has witnessed many events and stories that are not widely known. Here are some examples:

Intriguing Facts

The Piazza del Campidoglio is full of intriguing facts and details that reveal its rich history and culture. Here are some examples:

Dark Histories

The Piazza del Campidoglio has also been the scene of some dark and tragic events that have marked its history. Here are some examples:

Architectural Features

The Piazza del Campidoglio is a public square on the top of the ancient Capitoline Hill, between the Roman Forum and the Campus Martius in Rome, Italy. It was designed by Michelangelo in the 16th century, at the request of Pope Paul III, who wanted to renovate the area for the visit of Emperor Charles V. The square includes three main buildings: the Palazzo Senatorio, the Palazzo dei Conservatori, and the Palazzo Nuovo, which house the Capitoline Museums, one of the oldest national museums in the world.

The square has a complex spiraling pavement with a star at its center, symbolizing the union of earth and heaven. The pavement also aligns the square with St. Peter's Basilica, the political center of Rome. The square is dominated by a bronze equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius, a replica of the original that is preserved in the museum. The statue was placed in the center of the square by Michelangelo, who also redesigned the façades of the three palaces to create a harmonious ensemble.

The Palazzo Senatorio stands on the site of the ancient Tabularium, the records office of ancient Rome. It was built in the 13th century and enlarged in the 14th century. Michelangelo added a monumental staircase and a double ramp to connect it with the lower level of the square. He also modified the façade with Corinthian pilasters and a central clock tower.

The Palazzo dei Conservatori was originally built in the 15th century as the headquarters of the city magistrates. Michelangelo gave it a new façade with Doric pilasters and a triangular pediment. He also added a balcony for public ceremonies and a portico with Corinthian columns to link it with the Palazzo Nuovo.

The Palazzo Nuovo was built by Michelangelo to balance the Palazzo dei Conservatori on the opposite side of the square. It has a similar façade with Ionic pilasters and a triangular pediment. It was completed in the 17th century by Girolamo Rainaldi, who also added a portico with Doric columns to match the one of the Palazzo dei Conservatori.

Iconic Buildings

The Capitoline Museums are located in the two palaces that flank the square: the Palazzo dei Conservatori and the Palazzo Nuovo. They were founded in 1471 by Pope Sixtus IV, who donated some of the most impressive statues from ancient Rome to the city, such as the She-wolf, the Spinario, the Camillus, and the colossal head of emperor Constantine. Over the centuries, the museums' collection has grown to include many of ancient Rome's finest artworks and artifacts, such as the Capitoline Venus, the Dying Gaul, the Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius, and the Capitoline Brutus.

The museums also display paintings by famous artists such as Caravaggio, Rubens, Titian, Tintoretto, and Veronese. The museums are connected by an underground gallery that passes under the Piazza del Campidoglio and offers a stunning view of the Roman Forum.

Tips and Recommendations

If you want to visit the Piazza del Campidoglio and its museums, here are some tips and recommendations:


The Piazza del Campidoglio is one of the most beautiful and historic squares in Rome, where you can admire the genius of Michelangelo and the glory of ancient Rome. It is also a cultural hub, where you can visit one of the oldest and richest museums in the world, and see some of the most iconic sculptures and paintings of all time. It is a must-see for anyone who loves art, history, and architecture.