Piazza del Campidoglio or Capitoline Square is one of Rome’s most beautiful squares, designed in the sixteenth century by Michelangelo and laid out between two summits of the Capitoline Hill.
In 1536 Pope Paul III Farnese asked Michelangelo to design a new square, the Capitoline Square. The project also included a redesign of the existing buildings surrounding the area. Michelangelo came up with an original, trapezoidal design for the square with an intriguing oval shaped ground pattern. He rebuilt the Palazzo Senatorio, seat of the Roman senate, and redesigned the facade of the Palazzo dei Conservatori.
Additionally a new building, the Palazzo Nuovo, was to be constructed just opposite the Palazzo dei Conservatori. Both palazzos were positioned at a slight angle so that it changes the perspective in such a way that the square seems larger than it actually is. Finally, Michelangelo’s ambitious plans for the square also included the creation of an elegant staircase, the Cordonata.
Construction of the square started in 1546 but only the staircase at the entrance of the Palazzo Senatorio was realized when Michelangelo died in 1564. The project was finally completed in the seventeenth century according to Michelangelo’s designs.
The grandiose, slow rising staircase that leads from the bottom of the Capitoline Hill to the piazza is known as the Cordonata, Italian for ‘graded ramp’. The two lions in basalt that flank the foot of the Cordonata are authentic Egyptian statues. The two large classical statues of the Dioscuri Castor and Pollux that adorn the top also date back to the antiquity.
The statue of Marcus Aurelius
In the center of the square stands an equestrian statue of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. The statue is a replica; the original one was replaced in 1981 and moved to the Capitoline Museums to protect it from the elements.
The bronze gilded statue only survived because it was thought to depict Emperor Constantine, the first Christian emperor. It wasn’t until the fifteenth century that its real identity was discovered.
Location: Capitoline Hill, Rome
Nearby sights: Capitoline Hill, Capitoline Museums, Santa Maria in Aracoeli
How to get there: Subway: Colosseo (B)
Nearby hotels: Navona apartments Piazza Venezia area, Hosianum Palace Hotel , Kolbe Hotel Rome