Explore the different layers of history, admire the intricate artwork and frescos or just take in the sweeping views of Rome from this riverside fortress.
The Castel Sant’Angelo sits in a commanding position beside the River Tiber close to the Vatican. It is an imposing building that has been through many stages in its life, including a mausoleum, a jail and a papal fortress. The castle now houses the Museo Nazionale di Castel Sant’Angelo.
Approach the Castel Sant’Angelo by crossing the Ponte Sant’Angelo to get a feeling of awe for the ancient structure ahead of you. The bridge was built at the same time as the original building, which was designed as a mausoleum for Emperor Hadrian and his family. Castel Sant’Angelo was completed in 139 after four years of construction. Unfortunately, Hadrian died the year before completion but it still became his mausoleum upon completion.
Enter the building and focus on the different additions and changes made to suit each purpose of the building over the centuries. Hadrian’s mausoleum, a weapons display and the papal residential quarters make for interesting contrasts.
The themed sections off the Museo Nazionale di Castel Sant’Angelo help to give you an insight into each stage of the building’s lifetime. After Hadrian, the mausoleum had many other emperors interred in it before becoming a jail. Read about the notorious prisoners that were held here and brutal executions that took place. On top of this grim past, it has also served as a fortress for the Vatican, sheltering popes in times of danger. In the 13th century a fortified passageway was built to connect it to Vatican City.
Take your time to appreciate the artworks that you will find in this multi-level museum as well. Afterwards, head up to the roof for a great view of Rome. There are views across to the Vatican and down to the River Tiber as well as of the castle grounds. If the terrace seems familiar, it may be because it featured in the famous opera Tosca by Puccini. After enjoying the views, head to the on-site café for refreshments.
Castel Sant’Angelo is open daily from morning to early evening and admission fees apply. Rome Passes are accepted and can help you skip the line for the ticket office. Being close to Vatican City, the castle is easily reached on foot, by metro, bus and taxi.