Visiting Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome, Italy

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

Castel Sant'Angelo across the Tiber River

Castel Sant'Angelo across the Tiber River

One of the most recognizable structures in all of Rome has to be the Castel Sant’Angelo. Perched on the banks of the Tiber River, this impressive fortress has withstood 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.

Castel Sant'Angelo from the Ponte S' Angelo

Castel Sant'Angelo from the Ponte S' Angelo

A Little History

The Castel Sant’Angelo was constructed between 130 and 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—the passage way from Castel Sant'Angelo to the Vatican.

Passetto di Borgo—the passage way from Castel Sant'Angelo to the Vatican.

Castel Sant’Angelo’s past has a sinister side to it as well, having been used as a prison during the middle ages and 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'Angelo.

Ponte S. Angelo

Ponte S. Angelo

Today, the Castel Sant’Angelo is a historic landmark in Rome and is 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'Angelo (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'Angelo also has an interesting story to it; it 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

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 several 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 many of the antique paintings and furnishings to the museum in the early 1900s when the museum was first established (1925).

Medieval Catapult

Medieval Catapult

The castle is a labyrinth of stately halls, frescoed rooms, and numerous courtyards and 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.

There is a small coffee shop located near the top of the castle for those looking to take a break or grab a quick bite to eat.

St. Peter's Basilica

St. Peter's Basilica

Rooftops of Rome - Pantheon & Victor Emmanuel Monument

Rooftops of Rome - Pantheon & Victor Emmanuel Monument

Though the castle is only open during daylight hours, I would suggest taking a walk around 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 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

Cafe in Castel Sant'Angelo

Cafe in Castel Sant'Angelo

Hours and Admission

The Castel Sant’Angelo Museum is open Tuesdays through Sunday from 9 am until 7:30 pm. They are closed on Mondays and also on Christmas Day and New Years Day. Full price entry is 15 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.

Getting to Castel Sant’Angelo 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.

Questions & Answers

Question: Is it possible to just go to the top of the Castel Sant'angelo to see the views or do entrance I have to buy tickets for the castle and museum?

Answer: To go to the top of Castel Sant’Angelo, you will need to purchase an entry ticket. Unfortunately, this is the only way to see the amazing views.

© 2013 Bill De Giulio


Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on August 09, 2013:

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 Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on August 09, 2013:

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.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on August 07, 2013:

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

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on August 07, 2013:

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 on August 07, 2013:

wow beautiful photo Thanks for sharing

Suzanne Ridgeway from Dublin, Ireland on August 07, 2013:

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!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on August 06, 2013:

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 :)

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on August 06, 2013:

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

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on August 06, 2013:

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..

Mary from Cronulla NSW on August 06, 2013:

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 from London on August 06, 2013:

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

Jared Miles from Australia on August 06, 2013:

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.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on August 05, 2013:

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

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on August 05, 2013:

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


Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on August 05, 2013:

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

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on August 05, 2013:

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.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on August 05, 2013:

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

IslandBites from Puerto Rico on August 05, 2013:

Looks really nice, specially at night. Good hub!

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on August 05, 2013:

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

Lana Adler from California on August 05, 2013:

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

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on August 04, 2013:

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.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on August 04, 2013:

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...

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on August 04, 2013:

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.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on August 04, 2013:

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

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on August 04, 2013:

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

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on August 04, 2013:

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.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on August 04, 2013:

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 from Ottawa, Canada on August 04, 2013:

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!

Mary Craig from New York on August 04, 2013:

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 from Toronto, Ontario-Canada on August 04, 2013:

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 from United Kingdom on August 04, 2013:

Awesome photo and great hub!

carol stanley from Arizona on August 04, 2013:

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 from USA on August 04, 2013:

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.

Claire on August 04, 2013:

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.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on August 04, 2013:

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.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on August 04, 2013:

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!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on August 04, 2013:

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.

Sukhdev Shukla from Dehra Dun, India on August 04, 2013:

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.

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