Lungotevere Castello, 50
Tel. +39 06 32810
Opening hours Open 9:00–19:30. Last entry 18:30.
Ticket prices €10.00 (€5.00 concessions).
Castel Sant’Angelo, on the west bank of the Tiber river not far from the Vatican, is one of the most impressive sites in Rome, linked inextricably with the history of the city itself.
History of the Castle
Begun originally by the Emperor Hadrian in the early second century AD, it was completed by Antoninus Pius in 139 and intended as a mausoleum for members of the Imperial family. During the troubled third century, the Emperor Aurelian fortified the structure and included it as part of his walls, and it remained of vital defensive importance.
Castel Sant'Angelo takes its modern name from a vision supposedly seen by Pope Gregory the Great in late 6th century, in which the archangel Michael appeared over the top of the monument thus announcing the end of a devastating outbreak of the plague. This event is commemorated by the magnificent eighteenth-century statue of St. Michael sheathing his sword, made by the Flemish artist Werschaffelt.
During the middle ages, the building was then occupied by many different noble families, before coming under full papal control in 1377. It is linked to the Vatican by a special underground passage, the ‘passetto del borgo’, which enabled several popes to flee to the fortress in times of danger.
Things to See
Today Castel Sant’Angelo has suffered from years of under-funding, mismanagement and neglect, but it still retains many points of interest.
On the ground floor the winding ramp designed for the funeral cortege is an impressive piece of Roman engineering, whilst on the upper floors, features include a display of ancient weapons, some impressive trompe l’oeil frescoes and the small but exquisitely decorated bathroom of pope Clement VII.
The building was also used as a prison, and one can still see the tiny, dank cells which once held many unfortunate prisoners, including Giordano Bruno, the sculptor Benvenuto Cellini, and the eighteenth-century fraudster Calgliostro.
At the top of the Castello, there are some wonderful views out over the city. Opera lovers will know that it is from here that Puccini’s Tosca leapt to her death.
Visiting the Castel Sant'Angelo
The best way to get to Castel Sant’Angelo is probably by foot across the elegant Ponte Vecchio. The nearest metro stop is Lepanto linea A, or by bus 40 from Termini.
In the summer the castle hosts various evening concerts and shows.