The Piazza del Campidoglio can be found at the top of the Capitoline Hill, which used to be the political center of ancient Rome. It opens up towards the west and thus towards Saint Peter’s and the Vatican instead of towards the Colosseum and the Roman Forum.
Piazza del Campidoglio Rome
The Piazza del Campidoglio was designed by Michelangelo for Pope Paul III Farnese (1534-1549), in occasion of a visit of the Emperor Charles V. The Palazzo dei Conservatori and the Palazzo Senatorio existed already, but it was Michelangelo‘s idea to add the Palazzo Nuovo and thus creating the trapezoid square.
Michelangelo never saw the final product of his project. He did manage to finish the steps to the entrance of the Palazzo Senatorio, but Giacomo della Porta and Girolamo Rainaldi finished the rest of the work. Thankfully they did not change Michelangelo‘s original design, though.
Michelangelo placed the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius on a new pedestal in the center of the square. He had had to move it from its original spot in the house of Verus (who was an ancestor of Marcus Aurelius), at the Lateran. The statue adorning the Piazza at the moment is a copy. The original itself is on display in the Palazzo dei Conservatori.
Originally the statue was gilded. People used to believe that once the gilding of the horse had become bright again, the world would end.
The Piazza del Campidoglio is flanked by the Palazzo dei Conservatori and the Palazzo Nuovo.
The central building is the Palazzo Senatorio. At the moment this is the seat of the mayor of Rome, whereas from the 12th century ii was used by the Senate of the city.
The Capitoline Museums, with the Pinacoteca and the Tabularium, are also located in the Piazza del Campidoglio. They mainly occupy the Palazzo Nuovo and the Palazzo dei Conservatori.
The wide steps leading up to the square are called Cordonata. At the foot of these steps you can see two lion fountains. The enormous statues at the top portray the Dioscuri, with their horses. They are flanked by two other statues that used to adorn the Trofei di Mario in the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II. The columns on each side are antique milestones taken from the Via Appia Antica.
The steeper steps to the left of the Cordonata lead to the Santa Maria in Aracoeli Church. The main attraction of the many wonderful works of art in theic church is a fresco cycle by Pinturicchio.