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Travel Article on Rome Italy - Rome Italy Hotels

A Remarkable European City - Rome, Italy

by Wade Rowland - Part 2

Rome, Italy

I was soon at the Piazza Aracoeli, from where it is just a short, death-defying sprint across the shooting gallery known as Via dei Teatro di Marcello to Michelangelo's stately staircase mounting to the top of the Capitoline, my destination.

The staircase, and the Piazza del Campidoglio with its embracing palaces, the giant antique Roman statues of Castor and Pollux and the huge equestrian statue of Emperor Marcus Aurelius at its centre, were laid out by Michelangelo at the request of his patron Pope Paul III, who wanted a suitably impressive venue to welcome his adversary Emperor Charles V.

As I paused to catch my breath at the top of the staircase, I could not help thinking once again what a remarkable city this is. The palace facing me across the square, the thirteenth-century Senator's Palace, is now the Rome City Hall. The 'new' façade is by Michelangelo, as are the two adjacent palaces, now museums.

In the sixth century B.C. this was the site of an Etruscan temple to Jupiter, that mysterious civilization's most sacred sanctuary. The Campidoglio, for which the square is named, is one of the seven hills on which Rome was built. Its two summits are called Capitoline and Arx (Citadel), and the square is in the dip between them.

In Roman times, it provided an entrance to the Forum (the sprawling ruins of which stretch out beyond the square), and held temples to Jupiter, Juno and Minerva, the 'Capitoline Triad'.

The place is saturated with enough history and myth to fill a volume on its own, from the eighth-century B.C. Rape of the Sabine Women to the story of the Geese of the Capitol who warned of a third-century B.C. attack by the Gauls. It was on this spot, recalled Edward Gibbon, that "on the fifteenth of October [1764] in the gloom of the evening, as I sat musing while the barefoot friars were chanting their litanies in the temple of Jupiter, that I conceived the first thought of my history...the decline and fall of the Roman Empire".

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