The piazza (square) has two big buildings that are almost identical but were built at different times. There is an enormous white monument that seems to be a strange castle with a staircase. It’s called the Vittoriano.
The Vittoriano was made for the first king of Italy, Vittorio Emanuele II. Romans don’t like it. They say it is too flashy and big but don’t let that put you off, go to the top in the transparent lift for a fantastic view. You can see most monuments from up there and there are maps and drawings to help you find them. The Vittoriano is also famous for its tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It honours a soldier without a name who is buried at the top of the staircase where you can also see two live soldiers. In the Vittoriano complex, on Via San Pietro in Carcere, there are often interesting shows, activities and guided visits for you to enjoy.
Palazzo Venezia, built 400 years ago, is the older of the two almost identical buildings in the square. It gets its name because the ambassador of the Republic of Venice who stayed there when he visited Rome. Today, it is the location of the National Museum and often hosts beautiful exhibitions.
And now, choose your route and begin your journey again...
From the Vittoriano, take the street to the right and follow it until you see two large staircases next to each other. The first steep staircase will take you to the church called Santa Maria in Ara Coeli. Follow my tail for more information.
The other staircase, known as the Cordonata, takes you to the Capitoline Square called Campidoglio in Italian. The two mythological twins Castor and Pollux with their horses await you at the top of the staircase.
The Capitoline Hillwatch out for traps: special disabled access, tel. (+39)0667102071 is one of the seven hills of the city. It is the smallest but the most famous. During Roman times, it was an important religious centre with the Temple of Jupiter on top of it. It was also a defensive place in which to fight off enemy attacks. One such attack is told in the legend of the Geese. The hill in fact has two peaks. The one to the left, where today you see the church, was the Arx or the fortress. The one to the right was the Capitolium or site of a temple.
After the Roman period, the hill was left by humans and used to feed goats on. Then, during the medieval period, it returned to serve as the site of city government. However only during the sixteenth century did it become the beautiful and splendid square it is today. The Pope asked Michelangelo, the greatest artist of the time, to reorganise Capitoline hill. Michelangelo’s square is high above and open to the city with the Cordonata staircase as access.
It has three buildings on its sides. Two are identical, the Palazzo dei Conservatori and the Palazzo Nuovo. They are the home of the Capitoline Museums. The third is the Palazzo Senatorio, which closes off the back of the square. The Mayor of Rome lives here. The front of this building has a magnificent staircase with two ramps that outline three large statues. The goddess Rome is in the centre at her sides are two seated giants the River Nile with the Sphinx and the River Tiber with the wolf and twins.
The floor of the piazza is decorated with the famous twelve pointed star by Michelangelo. At the centre of the star, there is a big horse and rider statue. It is a perfect copy of the monument to the Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Follow my tail to discover the original in the Capitoline Museums.
From Capitoline hill, you can return to Piazza Venezia and continue your journey from there.
If you begin to walk along Via dei Fori Imperiali from Piazza Venezia, you will find Trajan’s Forum with Trajan’s Market on your left. At one time, many thought it was the first ever shopping centre but today there are new ideas. Follow my tail to learn more.
There is also Trajan’s Column. Tall and impressive, the column seems to be wrapped by a stone spiral. It has images that show the victories of the Roman emperor Trajan. If you look closely at the figures, which at one time were coloured, you will see that Trajan is in it at least 60 times. If you look really hard, you will even see how soldiers dressed, the types of weapons they carried and how they built their camps.
Continue towards the Roman Forum, the main square of ancient Rome. Before the founding of the city, the Forum was a boggy valley full of mosquitoes and sheep. It was often used by merchants who made appointments to meet outside their village walls. So, the name Foro (Forum) was created which literally meant an appointment “outside the walls.” Over time, the location changed and became the centre of daily Roman life, both public and religious. It was here that people met to take a walk, do deals, discuss government and vote on laws. And often, it was right here that children played their outdoor games. What remains today of this grand square? Follow my tail and let’s go and find out!
Continue your journey along Via dei Fori Imperiali and you will reach the Colosseum, the magnificent Flavian Amphitheatre, which was built during the Roman Imperial period.
For the Romans, the Colosseum was a stadium where the people and the Emperor were entertained. They watched gladiator battles, hunting, men battling wild animals and even battles in boats. Almost all of the events were violent. Battles paired two gladiators against each other or against tigers, lions, crocodiles or elephants. In any event, someone almost always lost their life! The people watched, screamed and cheered on the performers.
If you want to learn more about the events at the Colosseum, follow my tail.
To the right of the Colosseum there is the Arch of Constantine. It is the most famous Roman triumphal arch. It was built by the Emperor Constantine in 312 AD, after an important victory over Maxentius. The Arch is divided into three passageway arches and is almost 25 metres tall. The sculptures that decorate it are special not only for their beauty but also because many of them were taken from other ancient monuments. Constantine actually decided himself to “recycle” the decorations from past buildings to decorate his new arch in order to establish a link between the various periods of the empire and to give a sense of continuity to the magnificence of Rome.