As we wandered along the bank of the Tiber we “stumbled” across this unusual building on the right bank of the river. It looked like it would have some great views, and we had no itinerary, so we decided to explore it.
The Castel Sant’Angelo, as we would find out, is the Mausoleum of Hadrian (former Roman Emperor) and home to may popes before the Vatican and St. Peter’s were built. One upon a time it was also the highest point in the city. It was build in the early 100’s – so it is nearing 2000 years old. The building was used as a military fortress in the 400’s, and then after that there were some looters, who didn’t leave much behind – most of the ashes of the emperors that were held in Sant’Angelo were lost (including, most likely, Hadrian). Just a few pieces left behind. In the 1300’s Pope’s turned it into a castle, and lived here. Then the Catholic church moved into St. Peter’s and the surrounding in the 1600’s, and used their former Fortress/Castle/Mausoleum as a prison and a site for executions. Now, of course, it’s a museum.
Walking through it there is evidence of all these various stories. The building has seen much history – some of which we know, and much of which is lost. It’s not huge, given the size of many of the sites and ruins in Rome and Vatican City, but it is interesting. Sant’Angelo doesn’t represent one aspect of Roman history, but many, which was one of the reasons I enjoyed it.
And, the views from the top were fantastic, just as we had hoped.
Oh, and what do you do AFTER climbing to the top of the castle? Reward yourself with a lovely walk back across the river, to some of the best gelato in the city. Hand made with fresh ingredients, you can watch them through the window as they fix and stir until there is tasty pear and tiramisu. It also explains why the line up was out the door. Long wait, but well worth it.