Majestic, evocative, full of charm and history... what are we talking about? Castel Sant'Angelo, of course. One of the most beloved and visited symbolic monuments in Rome.

Not far from St. Peter's Square, at the right bank of the Tiber river, just at the end of the bridge of the same name, rises the majestic fortress which history is profoundly linked to that of the eternal city.


Castel Sant'Angelo has not always looked as it does today. Over the years, it has endured several modifications and took on several functions. 

Intended by emperor Hadrian as his own funeral mausoleum, the castle was initially designed by architect Demetrian around 125 B.C. and completed by Antoninus Pius in 139 B.C. It was originally formed by a huge cilinder covered by tuff and marble. At its center, a smaller cilinder raised, totally covered by travertine. Above, there was a mound of earth with trees circled by many scultures and topped by a bronze quadriga guided by emperor Hadrian symbolising the Sun God.

The magnificient bridge with the statues of the angels that lead to Castel Sant'Angelo

In 271 B.C. emperor Aureliano transformed the building into a castle, adding encircling walls, from which opened St. Peter's gate, allowing the link with the apostole's grave. In the 11th century, the tower was added and, when in 1277 it became owned by the Vatican, the fortress became an impregnable garrison of the Catholic Church, and lately the Pontifical Apartments were added.

In 1277 Pope Nicholas III ordered the construction of an elevated passage known as the "passetto di Borgo", "il corridore", for the Romans. It is an 800-meter elevated passage that used to link the Vatican Walls with Castel Sant'Angelo, allowing a quick and safe escape hatch. Pope Alexander VI Borgia used it to visit the castle's prison, while other popes, like Pope Clement VII (Giulio de' Medici), used it to escape in drammatic occasions like the sack of Rome in 1527 by Charles V's mercenary soldiers, the Landsknechte. 

In 2000, on the occasion of the Great Jubilee, the "passetto" was set in motion again and today it is possible to visit it by prior arrangement.

The "passetto di Borgo" in a suggestive sight at night


From 1925, the fortress has been the headquarters of the National Museum of Castel Sant' Angelo, hosting art and history collections as well as relics of the Italian Army.

The museum reflects the different and changing uses of the building and can be considered, at the same time, monument, archaeological site and museum. The exhibition boasts heterogeneous collections of sculpture, paintings, marble findings, arms, furniture and various objects. 

To best organize your visit, read the information box at the bottom of this page. 


The stories and legends told about Castel Sant'Angelo are many... first of all, the one that explains its name.

You must, in fact, know that in 509 A.D. while the plague raged in Rome carrying chaos and famine, Pope Gregory I, decided to organise a procession to beg for a divine intervention. According to the legend, the Archangel Michael appeared in a shining view, putting away his sword. It was the 29th of August 590 A.D. and such view marked the end of the plague. From that moment, the fortress was named Castel Sant'Angelo.

The angel's statue placed in top of the castle, though, has not always been the same, but there have been many different ones over the centuries. The one we can admire today is a bronze statue by the sculptor Pierre van Verschaffelt, reconditioned between 1983 and 1986.

The statue of Archangel Michael, putting away his sword

But the stories about the castle don't end up here. On the 11th of Septembre 1577, Beatrice Cenci, a girl sentenced to death by Pope Clement VIII for killing her father -who had tortured and beaten her up for years- was beheaded in Ponte Sant'Angelo's square. From then, her soul wanders unable to find peace due to the violence she suffered when she was alive and the dreadful dead she had. Some swear that every 11th of September at night, the girl's ghost can be seen wandering in the square and above Ponte Sant'Angelo holding her head in her arms.

Apart from poor Beatrice Cenci, in the cells of Castel Sant'Angelo were held captive, among others, the humanists Platina and Julius Pomponius Laetus, the philosopher Giordano Bruno, considered eretic by the Church and sentenced to dead for his revolutionary theories, and many Italian patriots during the Italian unification. The only exception is represented by Benvenuto Cellini, goldsmith and sculptor, who is said managed to break out of prison climbing down the external latrine with a rope. 

Many literature, cinema and theatre works have been set at Castel Sant'Angelo. Examples of these are the famous Angels and demons by Dan Brown, but specially the last dramatic act of Giacomo Puccini's Tosca, when the main female character, desperate and escaping, jumps from the castle walls.

Puccini's Tosca is set at Castel Sant'Angelo

Our article ends here, but we are sure that Castel Sant'Angelo has already seduced you with its magical atmosphere. An absolute symbol of Rome, a place where history overlaps legend, a stop not to be missed during your visit at the eternal city.

Tell us about your experience and, as usual, write your comments in the box below. Any suggestions are welcome!

Useful information

Castel Sant'Angelo - National Museum


- From Civitavecchia Port: Reach Civitavecchia Train Station and get on the first regional train bound to Rome. After about 45 minutes get off directly at Roma San Pietro Train Station.

From there you can walk towards the square (10 minutes) or take bus 64 from Piazza della Stazione di San Pietro and get off after 5 stops at Acciaioli. Cross Via Paola and you will be at Piazza di Ponte Sant'Angelo.

- From Rome: Metro Line A: stop Lepanto or Ottaviano (St. Peter's) | Bus: lines 62, 23, 271, 982, 280 (stop Piazza Pia); line 40 (last stop Piazza Pia); linea 34 (stop via di Porta Castello); lines 49, 87, 926, 990 (last stop Piazza Cavour-stop via Crescenzio); lines 64, 46 (stop Santo Spirito).

Metropolitana Linea A: fermata Lepanto; fermata Ottaviano-San Pietro
Autobus: linee 62, 23, 271, 982, 280 (fermata Piazza Pia)
linea 40 (capolinea Piazza Pia)
linea 34 (fermata via di Porta Castello)
linee 49, 87, 926, 990 (capolinea Piazza Cavour-fermata via Crescenzio)
linee 64, 46 (fermata Santo Spirito) - See more at:
Martedì/domenica 9.00 - 19.30
Chiuso lunedì; 25/12; 1/01.
La biglietteria chiude alle 18.30 - See more at:

Tuesday- Sunday: 9.00-19.30
Monday: Closed. The museum will be closed on the 25th of December and on the 1st of January.

*The ticket office closes at 18.30
*For further information check the official site.
Martedì/domenica 9.00 - 19.30
Chiuso lunedì; 25/12; 1/01.
La biglietteria chiude alle 18.30 - See more at:
Martedì/domenica 9.00 - 19.30
Chiuso lunedì; 25/12; 1/01.
La biglietteria chiude alle 18.30 - See more at:
General: 7.00
Reduced: 3.50
* UE citizens between 18 and 25 years old
*First Sunday of the month the admission is free
*Free admission under 18 years old and students
*Free admission also for other categories. For further information check the official site.
Da luglio 2014 l'ingresso è gratuito la prima domenica di ogni mese. - See more at:
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