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  • Writer's pictureCharmaine Warren

Things you need to know before visiting Castel Sant’Angelo Rome

Visiting Castel San’t Angelo was our very first stop as soon as we got checked in to our hotel. Standing on the banks of the Tiber River in Rome, Italy is a monument with a fascinating past - Castel Sant'Angelo. Today, it's museum, but its story unfolds like a multi-layered tapestry, weaving together the threads of ancient Roman emperors, papal intrigue, and architectural brilliance.


A view of the cylindrical Castel Sant'Angelo fortress in Rome, Italy, with the Tiber River in the foreground and Saint Peter's Basilica in the background. The castle has a brown stone exterior and a large dome on top. There is a bridge leading to the entrance of the castle

Castel San’t Angelo’s History

Castel Sant'Angelo history begins in the 2nd century AD with Emperor Hadrian, who commissioned the structure as his final resting place. But its story takes a celestial turn in 590 AD from being Hadrian's Mausoleum. Legend has it that Pope Gregory the Great witnessed Archangel Michael sheathing his sword atop the mausoleum, signifying the end of a devastating plague. This divine vision not only gave the castle its present name ("Castle of the Holy Angel") but also inspired the construction of a chapel by Pope Pius II.


A photo of the Castel Sant'Angelo bridge in Rome, Italy, leading to the cylindrical Castel Sant'Angelo mausoleum. The bridge has statues of angels lining its sides and the mausoleum has a large dome on top

This towering mausoleum, a marvel of engineering, was built with a cylindrical base and topped by a massive statue of Hadrian himself. It served as the emperor's tomb for centuries, witnessing the rise and fall of Roman power.



A photo of a one of the brick walls of Castel San't Angleo with the EU flag waving on top. The base of the cylindrical tower is to the right of the photo. The flagpole is attached to a metal bracket on the wall. In the background, the sky is a clear blue.

Fast forward to the 5th century AD, and the once-peaceful mausoleum found itself transformed into a formidable fortress. As the city walls of Rome were built, Castel Sant'Angelo's strategic location made it a crucial defensive point. Popes, realizing its potential, further fortified the structure, adding moats, bastions, and a secret passageway connecting it to the Vatican. 

 

Why Castel Sant'Angelo Should Be on Your Roman Itinerary

  • It is a history buff’s dream: History whispers from every corner of Castel Sant'Angelo.  When you walk up the halls of the castle you would see remnants of different structures and statues that once adorned the castle. The Castel Sant'Angelo is rich with history on every floor of the structure, from Hadrian’s Mausoleum to the Prison cells


One of the artifacts found in Castel San't Angelo is a large, rectangular marble plaque with Latin writing engraved on it. The plaque has a hole in the center and a border.


  • It is an architecture marvel: Forget your traditional castles. Castel Sant'Angelo's cylindrical form and innovative design will literally leave you speechless. Walk through the Helical Ramp and you would know what I mean This massive ramp, originally used to transport the emperors' remains, now leads you upwards, revealing the various chambers inside the castle.


A close-up photo of a section of the interior brick wall of Castel Sant'Angelo, a cylindrical castle in Rome, Italy. The wall curves away from the viewer and light filters in from unseen openings above. This is likely part of the Helical Ramp, a long, spiraling walkway used to access the castle's upper chambers

  • See the Medieval Weaponry: Admire the impressive collection of medieval and Renaissance weaponry on display, a testament to the castle's defensive past.



A suit of armor on display in the Castel Sant'Angelo museum in Rome, Italy. The suit of armor is made of metal and has a visor for the face. It is displayed on a stand in a museum gallery. [medieval weaponry, Castel Sant'Angelo museum, Rome]

  • Descent into the Prison Cells: Although this was not available during our visit, I can only imagine the experience that this provides. Remember, famous figures like Benvenuto Cellini were once held captive here. Unfortunately at the time of our visit this was closed

  • Explore the Clementine Apartments: When you step in to Castel Sant'Angelo interior you get to see the lavishly decorated papal quarters. These quarters offer a glimpse into the lives of the popes who used the castle as a refuge. Look for the Castel Sant'Angelo fresco by renowned artists like Raphael and Perino del Vaga.


Photo of the Clementine Apartments, a residential building located near Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome, Italy with ornate carvings and frescos

  • Relax in the Courtyard of the Angel: This central courtyard, named after the angel statue atop the castle, is a peaceful haven amidst the castle's imposing walls. Take a moment to appreciate the serene atmosphere and the intricate details of the surrounding architecture. Now... at the time of our visit it might not be the most attractive area but remember that these are 2000 year old buildings so there would always be some kind of preservation going on



Courtyard of the Angel at Castel San't Angelo which is currently undergoing preservation efforts

  • Admire the Collection of Renaissance Art: Explore the castle's collection of Renaissance art, furniture, and weaponry.


Oil painting of The Reception of King James III and VIII, The painting is by Antonio Gionimo, called Gionima, 1 and is approximately 3 metres wide by 2.5 metres high. King James stands at the centre with members of his court behind him. He appears to be wearing the star of the French Order of the Holy Spirit.


  • Take in the Panoramic Views: When you reach the top of the cylindrical walk way,  Castel Sant'Angelo view offers breathtaking panoramic views of Rome, the Tiber River, and iconic landmarks.


A view from the cylindrical walkway at the top of Castel Sant'Angelo, which offers panoramic views of Rome, the Tiber River, and other landmarks.

 

Planning Your Visit for Castel San’t Angelo Rome

Castel Sant'Angelo best time to visit

  • We went in March and the temperatures were high 60s and lows 40s. It rained a couple of times but not the entire time

  • We were told that March is coming into the busy season, we think that March is the best time to visit Rome because the temperature is still pretty comfortable. Remember that most of the sites in Rome are ancient and you would be hard pressed to find air conditioning in the summer if you plan to go then

How much time do you need for Castel Sant'Angelo?

  • It took us about 3 hours to explore Castel San’t Angelo and have lunch in between our explorations

What is the best way to get to Castel Sant'Angelo?

  • We walked there from our hotel which was in Via Giuseppe Zanardelli and we thought this was the best way to get around Rome

  • Castel San’t Angelo Address: Lungotevere di Castello 50 Rome

  • Castel Sant'Angelo public transportation: Metro stop Lepanto (Line A), about 15 minutes walk (1 kilometer)

Where to buy tickets for Castel Sant'Angelo?

  • We bought our tickets when we got to Castel San’t Angelo, we went in March so it was not as busy but there were times when we passed by Castel San’t Angelo that we saw long lines

  • If you are on a tight schedule I suggest book your tickets early to avoid queuing in line 

 

Hidden Gems of Castel San’t Angelo

  • Café for refreshments: All that walking made you hungry? There is a café on the top of the castle that has a pretty decent amount of variety to satisfy any type of hunger

  • Unique Fact: Did you know Castel Sant'Angelo secret passage?  In 1722, a crucial secret passage  was built, connecting the castle to the Vatican. This ingenious addition served a dual purpose: providing the  during times of unrest and acting as a to protect invaluable church possessions.

  • Centuries later, the castle's fame was further amplified by Dan Brown's Angels and Demons, where it became a pivotal location in the thrilling story. However, the castle's true allure lies beyond its fictional portrayals.

  • Night time views of Castel San't Angelo is also pretty phenomenal



A photo of Castel Sant'Angelo, a cylindrical castle in Rome, Italy, illuminated at night. The castle is on the bank of the Tiber River, and there is a bridge in the foreground. In the distance, you can see other lit-up buildings and monuments of Rome

 

Is Castel Sant'Angelo worth visiting? You should definitely include Castel San’t Angelo in your list of things to do in Rome. If you are a history buff and is partial to historical buildings then Castel San’t Angelo is one of the best things to do in Rome Italy for a history buff.

 

Rome has a lot to offer and figuring our which ones to spend your time on is crucial to spend an enjoyable time exploring the city. Thanks for checking out our things you need to know before Visiting San’t Angelo. I hope we inspire you wanderlust!

 

TTYL!

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