Castel Sant’ Angelo
My goal in this post is to cover some of the main attractions in and around Castel Sant’Angelo. The castle is a very large complex with several towers, rooms, and monuments that will not all be covered below. However, I hope this post provides you with enough information to help you plan your visit.
There are many ways to get to Castel Sant’Angelo, but I prefer to walk over the bridge or Ponte Sant’Angelo which takes you to the castles’ main gate. The bridge is decorated with beautiful statues of angels. The views from the bridge are also breathtaking.
The bridge used to be called the Aelian Bridge or Pons Aelins (Bridge of Hadrian).1 The construction of the bridge was completed in 134 A.D. During the seventh century, under Pope Gregory, both the castle and bridge changed their name to Sant’Angelo. It was said that an angle had landed on top of the castle to announce the end of the recent outbreak of plague.2
The Angels of Ponte Sant’Angleo
I arrived at the castle when it opened at 9:00 a.m. There was a small line, which was rare because the summer months in Rome are extremely crowded. Below is a short video clip that will give you a visual to the entrance of the castle from Ponte Sant’Angelo.
Walking into the castle I could feel the history all around me. The tour began with the Walkway of Boniface IX. The walkway is situated between the base of the large cylinder of the castle and the outer walls.
I continued down the walkway stopping a few times to read the signs that provide solid historical information to visitors. Many visitors walk right by these markers. I couldn’t get enough of them. Of course this made my visit last a lot longer, but that was fine by me.
Eventually, I made my way up up the stairs to the Bastion of Saint Mark.
The Bastion of Saint Mark (pictures above) is located on the north-west corner of the castle next to the passeto (stone wall passage that leads to the Vatican). The bastion was built in 1447-155, however through the centuries, the bastion has had many alterations and upgrades.3 There are several other bastions that surround the original cylinder structure that allowed for a strong defense if attacked.
I walked along the second level of the castle taking pictures of the other bastions and I also took a few photos of Ponte Sant’Angelo from the walls.
After seeing the walls, I made my way into the main tower or cylinder structure where the old mausoleum was located that housed the remains of former Roman emperors including Emperor Hadrian.
On the upper levels of the castle, there are several things to see. I was very impressed with the Angel Courtyard. The courtyard was designed by Michael Angelo for Pope Julius II.4 From the courtyard, you can visit the exhibit of Art Religiosity in the 17th Century Rome. I enjoyed the exhibit and learned a lot about Rome’s past. Depending on your time frame you could easily spend up to 30 minutes visiting the exhibit. Please note that photographs are not allowed inside the exhibit.
I continued up the steps towards the circular tower which sits on top of the older structure. The difference in construction is clearly visible when you compare the types of construction material. It is on this level that you will encounter some amazing views of Rome and Vatican City. I walked along the path and took some photos of the city from the restaurant terrace, The Loggia of Julius II, and also of the Theater Courtyard.
The Loggia of Julius II overlooks the Tibr River and it was built by Pope Julius II around 1505. The Loggia provides stunning views of the city and of Ponte Sant’Angelo.
Finally, I made my way up to the upper terrace, but not before visiting the Sala Polina, the Treasury Room, and the Armory. I recommend taking some time to stop at each room to learn more about the castle. However, the treasury room is not accessible to visitor, so take your picture quickly from the doorway and head straight up the stairs towards the armory because there will be line behind you.
It is believed that behind the back wall of the photograph above is where Hadrian’s tomb was located.
The top terrace was packed with so many people it was hard to walk around and get some good photographs, however I was able to get the picture above. I decided to take some video after waiting for an open spot near the edge of terrace overlooking the city (Please see video at the end of the post). I slowly made my way down the many levels of the castle. The exit I chose was the helicoidal ramp which leads visitors down to the entrance of the castle. The ramp is filled with history. For example, there are original tile mosaic floors and large shafts on the ceiling that ventilated the prison and also served as drainage for rain water.
My visit to Castel Sant’Angelo was enriching. I learned a lot about the history of the castle and also of Rome. After all, the castle played a significant part in Rome’s history throughout the centuries. For example, during the 5th century, the Goths invaded Rome and sacked the city. Many of the urns, including Hadrian’s urn were destroyed. This was many of the historical pieces of history that I learned during my visit.
Admission: Adults is €10.50 and €8.50 for students. Last admission is one hour before closing.
Opening Hours: The castle is open from April – September 9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. and from October – March 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Directions: From Termini take bus #40 Express. From Piazza Navona take Zanardelli Street north to Ponte Umberto I Bridge. After the bridge turn left and Lung Castello will take you straight to the castle. From the Vatican walk east on Via di Conciliazione Pia directly to the castle.
Views of the City from the Castle
I’ve included more video clips of views from the castle below.
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