Perched atop Rome’s Capitoline Hill
in the stunning Piazza del Campidoglio are the Capitoline Museums. The Museums are housed inside two beautiful Renaissance palaces, the Palazzo dei Conservatori and the Palazzo Nuovo, and hold archaeological artefacts from ancient Rome up to the 19th century.
The two palaces, which were designed by Michelangelo, are in themselves magnificent works of art - the Nuovo was built a century after the Conservatori, its façade following Michelangelo’s blueprint exactly. Facing each other on opposite sides of the Piazza, they are linked by an underground tunnel (also an exhibition hall) which leads to the Tabularium, the ancient records office of the Empire, which overlooks the Roman Forum
The museums originated back in 1471, when Pope Sixtus IV donated some ancient bronzes to the Roman people and placed them on the Capitoline Hill. Over the centuries the collection has grown steadily with the help of subsequent Popes, and now boasts a staggering array of statues, busts, sarcophagi, coins, medallions and other beautiful and fascinating artefacts.
One of the most impressive exhibits is located in the newly built glass roofed hall. Here you will find the original statue of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius on horseback. This enormous bronze figure once stood in the centre of the Piazza, where a copy now holds its place, and dates from about the year 175 AD: unusually, it still has remnants of a regal gold coating. In the same hall are the remains of the Temple of Jupiter, which was a place of extreme religious importance to the ancient Romans; the colossal size of the building blocks indicate the grandeur of the Temple in its heyday. Since the Palazzo dei Conservatori was once a government residence, the exhibition rooms are also sumptuously decorated in Renaissance style, with detailed enamelling, frescoes and paintings.