Visiting Rome’s Castel Sant’Angelo


No, I didn’t spell it wrong. That’s how Rome spells Castle.

Being it was a Saturday, it was crazy with pedestrian traffic. We decided to visit Castel Sant’Angelo since we didn’t get a chance to visit it the last time we were in Rome in 2006.

You can get lost in that place. What a wealth of history this structure has to offer!

About Castel Sant’Angelo

The “Mole Adriana”, now called Castel Sant’Angelo, was originally built between 13 and 139 AD as the monumental grave of the Roman Emporer Publio Elio Adriano (say that fast three times), and was used as a tomb by the imperial families up until the death of Emperor Caracalla in 217 AD.

The Mausoleum was built on the right bank of the Tiber River (or as Romans would say, “River Tiber”). Today’s Pont Sant’Angelo, once called Ponte Elio, linked the Mausoleum to the ancient city on the opposite of the Tiber. it was built by Hadrian in 130 AD, but in the 17th century was adorned with angels sculpted by Bernini.

Imagine the original structure adorned with columns, statues, epitaphs, bronze and marble decorations. Walls once covered with Parian marble can still be evident and admired.

When you enter the ancient “Mole” you enter into the atrium, which was the first room used for funeral processions. From this area begins the cylindrical ramp that goes up through the core of the structure, rising about 50 feet and linking the ground floor to the Hall of the Urns.

It was reused as a military outpost between 270 – 275 AD. This is evident by the numerous small holes for cannons, cannon balls, and dents where the structure was damaged during the Sack of Rome in 1527.

The name Castel Sant’Angelo dates back to the late 6th century when under Pope Gregory the Great it was renamed, because of theDSC_0262 legendary miraculous apparition of the Archangel atop the Mausoleum, putting an end to the terrible plague.

In the late 14th century, the castle was passed under the sole control of the Popes, who used it mainly as a fortress. In the same period, the square wall that encircles the “Mole” was fortified with four corner bastions that were designed with the names of the Evangelists. These were completed during the papacy of Alexander VI Borgia (1492 – 1503).

In the 16th Century, the castle was used as an official palace for popes and clergy. Frescoes and small apartments dominate part of the castle where the Popes living quarters were.

In 1527, Rome was invaded and occupied by troops and ultimately called the “Sack of Rome”. On that occasion, Pope Clement VII fled to safety from the Vatican to the Castle using the famous “Passetto” (a passageway which starts from Saint Matthew’s Bastiona nd runs on top of the wall that encircles the Vatican).

This wonderful architectural wonder includes finds from excavations near the monument (1890-1893). Full Gladiator costumes, extremely ornate rifles and handguns made of mother of pearl and silver in addition to original Roman coins and military uniforms.

Dave and I were in awe of this place and have taken some images for your viewing pleasure below:

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Nancy’s Observations

  • Along with all the extra pedestrians on a busy Saturday come extra peddlers. The guys selling parasols approached me three times in ten minutes.
  • You get wine here ASAP. But, order a mixed drink and it’s chaos. I ordered a margarita and received margarita pizza instead. (I was wondering what was taking so long).
  • People wearing long sleeves and jeans in this weather should be executed.
  • I secretly think that waiters work for the mafia. All they do is stand around and talk.
  • Did I mention everyone smokes here?
  • What’s so hard about getting a rum and diet coke around here? My first present was a glass of entire rum. My second attempt presented by the water was rum with Limoncello. WTF?
  • Purell: God’s gift to tourists. That, and portable TP.
  • Bread. In Italy, the bread is practically falling into your lap. They heap bread on your table as if it’s a sacrifice. In the U.s. you would be lucky to receive two hard crusted buns – AND  you have to ask for it!
  • After our castle excursion we were hungry (go figure). We ended up at Tutti A Prua Cafe. Best place we’ve eaten at so far. Plenty of food on the plates with fresh steamed mussels and clams, home made gnocchi, BREAD, and they knew how to make a Cosmopolitan!
  • I swear, if one more guy shoves a rose in my face, I’m gonna cut him.

After dinner, we stumbled across a wine bar across from the Justice building. It’s called Il Simposio. One word: WOW. Here are some images we took:

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If you want to see more images of the bar and it’s “gilded cage”, please hover over Photography on my blog and click on Italy Photography. They’re all there. I promise.

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