Castel St. Angelo
The enormous Castel St. Angelo was begun in 128 AD by Hadrian as a mausoleum for himself and his family, and it was completed in 139 by his successor Antoninus Pius. Since then it has served successively as fortress, prison, barracks and museum.
The round tower up until the first string course is from Hadrian’s time and the upper levels are additions of the Renaissance and later. The central tower once formed the base of a statue of the emperor, now replaced by a bronze angel.
Today the castle is open as a museum: the interior spiral ramp leading to Hadrian’s burial chamber is superbly preserved, and the upper rooms and courtyards, with their papal decorations, are also well worth a visit. From the entrance a stone ramp (rampa elicoidale) winds its way to the upper terraces, from which you can see amazing views of the city and enjoy a coffee at the outdoor cafe.
The sixth floor features the Terrazza dell’Angelo, crowned by a florid statue of the Archangel Michael cast in 1752 by the Flemish artist Peter Anton van Verschaffelt (location of the tragic denouement in “Tosca”).
The castle is connected to St. Peter’s Basilica by Il Passetto di Borgo, a walled 800m passage erected in 1277 by Pope Nicholas III, used by popes who needed to make a quick escape to the fortress in times of danger, which was fairly often. Classical music and jazz concerts are also held in and around the castle and gardens in summer.