Campidoglio, Rome The Capitoline Hill or Campidoglio is the smallest of Rome's seven hills, but it was the religious and political center of the city since its foundation more than 2500 years ago. Capitoline Hill Several important temples were built at the Capitoline Hill by the Romans: the Temple of Juno Moneta, the Temple of Virtus and the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus Capitolinus, the most important temple in ancient Rome. The latter was built in 509 BC and was almost as large as the Parthenon in Athens. Also on the hill was the Tabularium, built in 79 BC and used as the empire's main archive. The hill, and the temple of Jupiter in particular were the symbols of Rome as Caput Mundi, capital of the world. Middle Ages During the middle ages, the site became the center of civic government and several palaces were built on the hill. But when Charles V planned a visit to Rome in 1536, the muddy Capitoline Hill was in such a bad shape that Pope Paul III Farnese asked Michelangelo to design a new square, the Piazza del Campidoglio, including a redesign of the existing buildings surrounding the square. Michelangelo's Design Michelangelo came up with an original design for the square, including an intriguing ground pattern. He redesigned the Palazzo Senatorio, seat of the Roman senate. Michelangelo also made designs of a new façade for the Palazzo dei Conservatori and designed a new building, the Palazzo Nuovo, to be built just opposite the Palazzo dei Conservatori. Also in the plans were a monumental staircase, the Cordonata, leading from the bottom of the hill to the new square. Construction of the Piazza di Campidoglio started in 1546 but only the staircase at the entrance of the Palazzo Senatorio was completed when Michelangelo died in 1564. The project was only finished in the 17th century, but most of Michelangelo's designs were implemented. Cordonata The long, beautiful staircase to the Piazza del Campidoglio is known as the Cordonata. It is adorned with granite statues of Egyptian lions at the foot and two large classical statues of Castor and Pollux at the top. At the center of the square is a replica of a statue of Marcus Aurelius. The original statue can be found in the Palazzo Nuovo. Palazzo Nuovo Only three buildings border the square. The one on the left coming from the Cordonata is the Palazzo Nuovo. The building was designed by Michelangelo, but finished by the brothers Carlo and Girolamo Rainaldi in 1654. In 1734, pope Clemens XII made the collection open to the public, creating the world's first public museum. Now one of the Capitoline Museums, it contains mostly classical sculpture including the 'Dying Gaul' and large statues of Minerva and Mars.turkeyarena.com Palazzo Senatorio The central building on the Piazza del Campidoglio is the Palazzo Senatorio. The name is derived from its function as seat of the Senate until 1870 when it became the seat of the City of Rome. It was originally built as a fortress in the 11th century on top of the ancient Tabularium and rebuilt again in the 13th and 14th century. The current design is a slightly adapted version of the 16th century design by Michelangelo. Palazzo dei Conservatori The building opposite the Palazzo Nuovo is the Palazzo dei Conservatori. It was the seat of the city government during the Middle Ages. The palazzo is now part of the Capitoline Museums, with a collection mainly consisting of sculpture and paintings. Some notable works are the she-wolf suckling the twins Remus and Romulus and the pieces of a giant statue of emperor Constantine II. Santa Maria in Aracoeli Near the Piazza del Campidoglio, at the site of the ancient temple of Juno is the Santa Maria in Aracoeli, a church which origins go back to the 6th century. A large staircase, 122 (when starting on the right) to 124 (starting on the left) steps lead to the church on top of the Capitoline Hill. Victor Emmanuel Monument There is also a connection from the Piazza del Campidoglio to the monument Victor Emmanuel II. That will save you a climb on yet another large staircase.