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Visiting Castel Sant'Angelo: Rome, Italy

Updated on March 14, 2017
bdegiulio profile image

Traveling has always been one of my passions. It exposes us to new cultures, experiences, and makes the world a better, more tolerant place.

Castel Sant'Angelo

Castel Sant'Angelo across the Tiber River
Castel Sant'Angelo across the Tiber River | Source

One of the most recognizable structures in all of Rome outside of the famous Roman Colosseum certainly has to be the Castel Sant’Angelo. Perched on the banks of the Tiber River this impressive fortress has with stood the test of time since its construction began in 130 AD. Having served multiple purposes over the centuries, today the building houses the National Museum of Castel Sant’Angelo and retraces the history of this Roman landmark.

Most visitors to Rome who are not familiar with the Castel Sant’Angelo view it as a beautiful photo opportunity but bypass a visit in favor of Rome’s many other historic sites and monuments. I would like to encourage anyone visiting Rome to take the time to tour the Castel Sant’Angelo as it has a fascinating history and offers one of the finest views of Rome from its rooftop terrace.

Ponte Sant'Angelo

Castel Sant'Angelo from the Ponte S' Angelo
Castel Sant'Angelo from the Ponte S' Angelo | Source

A Little History

The Castel Sant’Angleo was constructed between 130-139 AD by the Roman Emperor Hadrian as a mausoleum for himself, his family and his successors. The structure most likely appeared quite different then and has been transformed over the centuries to its current state. Following his death in 138 AD, Hadrian’s ashes were placed here along with those of his wife and his son who died in the same year. For the next 80 years or so the remains of succeeding emperors were interred here ending with the Roman Emperor Caracalla in 217 AD

By the 5th century the building had been converted into a fortress and was instrumental in defending Rome during the tumultuous Middle Ages. The buildings fortified walls, strategic position along the Tiber River, and close proximity to the Vatican made the castle a convenient refuge in time of need. In 1277 Pope Nicholas III had the castle connected to the Vatican with the now famous corridor called the Passetto di Borgo. This elevated passage was made famous in Dan Brown’s movie, Angels & Demons, and was actually used by Popes in times of danger as an escape route from the Vatican to the safe confines of the fortress.

Passetto di Borgo

Passetto di Borgo - the passage way from Castel Sant'Angleo to the Vatican
Passetto di Borgo - the passage way from Castel Sant'Angleo to the Vatican | Source

Castel Sant’Angleo’s past also has a sinister side to it as well, having been used as a prison during the middle ages and also as recently as the late 19th century. Executions by guillotine and burnings at the stake were the fate of many a prisoner in the castle’s courtyards. It was common practice for prisoners to be starved and tortured during their most unpleasant stay at Castel Sant’Angleo.

Ponte S. Angelo

Ponte S. Angelo
Ponte S. Angelo | Source

Today, the Castel Sant’Angelo is a historic landmark in Rome and easily recognized due to its unique shape and the beloved statue of Archangel Saint Michael that sits high above the rooftop terrace. The castle is located quite close to Vatican City and directly across the Ponte Sant’Angleo (Bridge of Castel St. Angelo). The bridge, which is for pedestrian traffic only is one of the most famous in all of Rome and was built in 239 AD.

The name Castel Sant’Angleo also has an interesting story to it and actually came from a vision that Pope Gregory I had in 590 AD of an angel (Saint Michael) that appeared above the castle and supposedly saved the city from the plague. The statue of Archangel Saint Michael shows him sheathing his sword in a sign that the end of the plague was at hand.

Archangel Saint Michael

Archangel Saint Michael
Archangel Saint Michael | Source

Visiting the Museum

Access to the museum today takes visitors up the 400 foot spiral ramp to the interior of the castle and its six levels. The ramp leads to what is known as the imperial tomb, which is a small square room that would have housed the urns containing the ashes of Emperor Hadrian. The remains of Hadrian and others have long since been lost to looters over the centuries.

There are a number of interesting exhibits for viewing in the castle including a variety of medieval military weapons on display in the courtyards. A number of the castle’s 58 rooms have exhibits showing Renaissance era paintings, sculptures, pottery, and various antique artifacts. Rooms that were once used as the papal apartment are also on display. Most of the artwork in the castle is from the collections of Mario Menotti and Contini Bonacossi whose families donated a number of antique paintings and furnishings to the museum in the early 1900s when the museum was first established (1925).

Medieval Catapult
Medieval Catapult | Source

The castle is a labyrinth of stately halls, frescoed rooms, and numerous courtyards and really gives visitors an in depth look at 2,000 years of Roman history. As you ascend through the castle you will eventually reach the last narrow stairway that will lead you to the sixth level and the rooftop angel terrace. Here you will be greeted with perhaps the finest view of Rome that can be had. Looking down on the rooftops of Rome one can easily identify some of Rome’s most historic landmarks including the Pantheon, the Colosseum, and the National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II. A quick glance to your right gives you a stunning view of St. Peters Basilica and a look behind you gives you an up close look at the statue of Archangel Saint Michael perched atop the castle.

St. Peter's Basilica

St. Peter's Basilica
St. Peter's Basilica | Source

Rooftops of Rome

Rooftops of Rome - Pantheon & Victor Emmanuel Monument
Rooftops of Rome - Pantheon & Victor Emmanuel Monument | Source

While the castle is only open during daylight hours I would suggest while you are here that you take a walk after the sun goes down. The castle and the bridge are bathed in lights, which makes for a beautiful scene as it reflects off of the waters of the Tiber River. The city of Rome does a wonderful job of illuminating its historical structures and ruins and a nighttime walk through the historic center of Rome is a must on any visit to the eternal city.

Castel Sant'Angelo at Night

Castel Sant'Angelo at Night
Castel Sant'Angelo at Night | Source

Castel Sant'Angleo Cafe

Cafe in Castel Sant'Angleo
Cafe in Castel Sant'Angleo | Source

The Castel Sant’Angleo Museum is open Tuesdays through Sunday from 9am until 7:30pm. They are closed on Mondays and also on Christmas Day and New Years Day. Full price entry is 10.50 euro with a reduced rate of 7 euro for European Union citizens between 18 and 25. Entry is free for EU citizens under age 18 and over age 65, students, and teachers. An audio guide is also available for a small fee and guided tours are available for groups of up to 25 people.

There is a small coffee shop located within the castle for those looking to take a break or grab a quick bite to eat. Getting to Castel Sant’Angleo is easy with Metro Line A and many bus lines stopping here or you can simply walk depending on where you are staying in Rome.

Enjoy your visit to Rome and the Castel Sant’Angelo, certainly one of the eternal cities most grand and historic sites.

Ciao for now.


A markerCastel Sant'Angelo, Rome -
Castel Sant'Angelo, Lungotevere Castello, 50, 00186 Rome, Italy
get directions

show route and directions
A markerCastel Sant'Angleo, Rome -
Castel Sant'Angelo, Lungotevere Castello, 50, 00186 Rome, Italy
get directions

B markerPantheon, Rome -
Pantheon, Piazza della Rotonda, 00186 Rome, Italy
get directions

C markerColosseum, Rome -
Colosseum, Piazza del Colosseo, 1, 00184 Rome, Italy
get directions

D markerVatican City, Rome -
Vatican City
get directions

© 2013 Bill De Giulio

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    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi rajan. Thank you, glad you enjoyed it. That's a great question about the holes in the pedestal of the statute. I will see if I can find out as I do not know.

      Thanks so much for the vote, share, pin, fb, etc... Have a great weekend.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Wonderfully informative hub, Bill. It is a treat to watch the pictures as well and the castle looks very impressive at night. I'm wondering what those holes, on the pedestal of Archangel Saint Michael's statute, are?

      Voted up, useful, interesting, shared here and on fb, tweeted and pinned.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thank you las81071. Glad you enjoyed the tour. Many thanks for the tour.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks Suzie. Please don't worry about being late. I am so far behind that I wonder if I'll ever catch up. Life is just busy :) Thanks so much for the wonderful comments, Castel Sant'Angleo really was wonderful. AS always Iv ery much appreciate the vote, share, pin, etc. Have a great week.

    • las81071 profile image

      las81071 4 years ago

      wow beautiful photo Thanks for sharing

    • Suzie HQ profile image

      Suzanne Ridgeway 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi Bill,

      How tardy I am being of late! Loved this insight to one of Rome's often missed sights and hands up I did not get the chance to visit it up close and wish I had now!!

      It is such a landmark, you are dead right and i loved seeing the pedestrian bridge leading to it as I was on an open top bus trip around the city. Great info and pics are wonderful as ever, another masterpiece for your growing series on Italy. Votes, Shared and Pinned to Italy!! Awesome my friend!

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Carter. Thank for stopping by. The ancient Romans were certainly not known as humanitarians, the Colosseum also has a somewhat gruesome history. Thanks so much for the vote, share, etc... Cheers :)

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Mike. Thank you, glad you enjoyed the tour. Very much appreciate the vote, pin, etc..

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Jared. Thank you. It's really been just the last 5 years or so since we became empty nesters. We do love it however and plan on continuing to see as much of the world as possible. Thank you again for visiting and the vote, share, etc..

    • carter06 profile image

      Mary 4 years ago from Cronulla NSW

      Thank you for my fix Bill:) great hub again and interesting info regarding the Castel's history, slightly gruesome I say..but fascinating info about the Popes vision of the arch angel, right? Great photos as usual..Up & shared etc..cheers

    • Mike Robbers profile image

      Mike Robbers 4 years ago from London

      A wonderful hub and travel guide, Bill. Voted and pinned!

    • Jared Miles profile image

      Jared Miles 4 years ago from Australia

      Some really great photography of some really great places Bill, you must really travel a lot, I'm jealous. Thanks for once again sharing the knowledge you gained on your travels, a fantastic guide. I'll be voting up and sharing.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Prasetio30. Thank you. Hopefully you get there someday soon. Many thanks for the vote. Have a great day.

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 4 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Nice review with beautiful pictures. I hope I can go there someday. Thanks for sharing with us. Voted up :-)

      Prasetio

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi IslandBites. Thank you. We really enjoyed our visit to Castel Sant'Angelo. Welcome to HubPages.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thank you Linda. It's a very picturesque area, both during the day and at night. Really a fascinating monument/museum. Thank you for visiting and of course for sharing. Have a great week.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thank you kalinin1158. It is beautiful at night. That photo is one of my favorites from all of Rome.

    • IslandBites profile image

      IslandBites 4 years ago from Puerto Rico

      Looks really nice, specially at night. Good hub!

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I love the photos, the description and the historical information, Bill! This is a fascinating hub. Of course, I'm sharing it!

    • kalinin1158 profile image

      Lana ZK 4 years ago from California

      Lovely pictures and great hub! The one of the castle at night is my fav :-)

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Joelle. Now you have a reason to return to Italy, to see Rome :) As you mentioned, there is so much to see and do in Italy. Thanks so much for stopping by. Have a great week.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Mary. Thank you. I had also always wondered if the Passetto di Borgo was actually used and found it interesting to learn that many popes had reason to use the passage. Rome was a violent place back then. Thank you as always for the vote, share, pin, etc...

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Rose. Thank you and I'm so glad that you enjoyed the hub. Like you Italy is near and dear to me and my family. How wonderful that you still have relatives living in Rome. Writing these hubs helps to keep Italy fresh in my thoughts and wanting to return. Many thanks for the vote and comments.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Bercton. Thank you for the comments, very much appreciated. Have a great day.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Carol. Thank you, glad you enjoyed the visit to Castel Sant'Angelo. Thank you as always for the vote, pin,etc..

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Flourish. Thank you. We really enjoyed Rome and the Castel Sant'Angelo was amazing. The views from the rooftop terrace were incredible. Thank you for the vote, share, etc.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Claire. Lucky you to have lived in Rome for 10 years. I am envious. It really is a wonderful city with so much to offer. Thanks so much for stopping by.

    • kidscrafts profile image

      kidscrafts 4 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      This is definitely a place that I want to visit. We planned a trip in Italy in 1992 with our two sons and in our plans we thought of visiting Rome. Finally, the weather was so hot around Pisa that we stayed longer at Torre del Lago (Lucca); the birth place of Giacomo Puccini. Then we cut through Italy to the Adriatic Sea and visited Assisi.... that was a nice discovery! But in the mean time.... we totally missed Rome :-(

      So many nice monuments to visit! So much history and as you explained for example the famous corridor "Passetto di Borgo" that was made famous in the movie Angels & Demons..... as well as a lot of other places!

      I love when you show pictures of some places with same angle during the day and during the night! Whatever the time of the day or night... those places have charms!

      Thanks for sharing this beautiful hub and your wonderful pictures!

      Voted up, interesting and beautiful!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      Another fabulous tour thanks to you! I guess we should be thankful that past rulers were egotistical and built such beautiful buildings, bridges, and temples. Though they did it pay themselves homage, we get the benefit of them thousands of years later!

      It is so interesting to know they actually used Passetto di Borgo like it was depicted in the movie "Angels and Demons". Yet another masterpiece Bill with magnificent pictures!

      Voted up, useful, awesome, interesting and pinned.

    • rose-the planner profile image

      rose-the planner 4 years ago from Toronto, Ontario-Canada

      This is a brilliant travel article highlighting Castel Sant'Angelo. Rome is certainly a beautiful place and Castel Sant'Angelo is one of its many treasures. You offered great details and the images are spectacular. Italy will always be near and dear to our hearts and actually we have several close relatives that live in Rome including a darling elderly aunt that's a Nun. Thank you for sharing this awesome article with all of us. (Voted Up) -Rose

    • Bercton profile image

      Bercton 4 years ago from United Kingdom

      Awesome photo and great hub!

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 4 years ago from Arizona

      The photos are beautiful and I always enjoy my history lesson..Great job as always..UP and in it goes to my travel section at pinterest.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 4 years ago from USA

      Fantastic hub, Bill! I loved not only the history and tips for visiting but also the gorgeous panoramic photos and how you interlinked your library of Italy hubs. Very well done! Voted up and across (except for funny) and sharing.

    • clairemy profile image

      Claire 4 years ago

      I love Roma!! I lived in Italy for 10yrs and you are right there is no other city like it anywhere and for that matter no other country.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks Bill. There certainly is no lack of history when it comes to Rome. The Castel Sant'Angelo really was one of the most interesting places we visited in Rome. Just amazing.

      A wonderful Sunday to you Bill.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Spectacular my friend. Wow! How I would love to see that. Thanks for giving me a brief tour and this old history teacher always enjoys the mini-history lessons. Well done!

      Have a great Sunday, Bill!

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thank you srsddn. You are right, it took centuries to build Rome to what it is today. Rome at night is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Thank so much for visiting, have a wonderful day.

    • srsddn profile image

      srsddn 4 years ago from Dehra Dun, India

      bdegiulio, Castel Sant'Angelo at Night is fantastic. Rome was not built in day. This is the saying we have been hearing. Roof tops tell the story. Thanks for sharing. Beautiful and voted up.