Next, we went to the Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II, the huge white monument sitting in the Piazza Venezia. The monument that is impossible to miss if you’re anywhere in its general vicinity.
The monument was built to honour King Victor Emmanuel II, who was the first king to rule over a unifed Italy. There is a bit of controversy regarding the monument itself, due to the fact that part of the Capitoline Hill had to be cleared, which meant Roman ruins and churches were destroyed in order for this monument to be built. The complete whiteness of the monument itself also contrasts a lot with all the nearby ruins and the monument could be said to dominate its surroundings. That being said, the views from the top are amazing.
To get to the top, you have to pay to take the lift, which I almost didn’t do because I very much dislike travelling in lifts. I’m glad my husband talked me into it though, and we spent about an hour up the top just enjoying the views. Being early in the morning, and off peak for tourist season, we basically had the top to ourselves most of the time, only sharing it with two other couples who came and went while we were still up there.
At the bottom of the monument is an eternal flame burning outside the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which is guarded by two soldiers.
We then went to the Capitoline Museums, which claim to be the world’s oldest public museums. They sit on the Capitoline Hill, which is where the Temple of Jupiter used to stand. Inside the Capitoline Museums you can view remains of the foundations of the temple. Apparently Michelangelo designed the Piazza del Campidoglio (the square in the middle of the Capitoline Museum buildings), and the stairs leading up to it. The statues on either side of the stairs are of Castor and Pollux and were originally located near the Temple of Castor and Pollux, which I’ve written about in a previous post. I love how everywhere you go in Rome there are bits that used to belong to another thing that you saw previously because someone years ago saw something they liked, which was probably also made from other bits of other things located around Rome and beyond, and relocated it to decorate their own building.
The statue of a man on a horse in the middle of the square is of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, and is a replica, with the original statue being located inside the museums. Supposedly, this statue only survived because people thought it was of Emperor Constantine, otherwise it would likely have been melted down during the persecution of pagans.
There are three palaces around the Piazza del Campidoglio, with the two that make up the Capitoline Museums being mirror images of each other. These buildings are connected through an underground tunnel that also takes you through the ancient Tabularium. The Tabularium is underneath the third palace, the Palazzo Senatorio, and was used to store the bronze tablets that contained the laws, deeds, and official matters of Rome.
In Rome, it seems pretty easy to get ‘museumed out’, but I did very much enjoy these museums. We hired an audio tour, which was worthwhile, because while the signage was better than other museums, we found we couldn’t always be bothered reading everything, especially when there’s so much to see.
Inside the entrance courtyard, there is a huge head and hand belonging to the statue of Constantine that stood in the Basilica of Maxentius (which I’ve written about in my Roman Forum post). There were also plenty of other interesting statues, like the statue of the Dying Gaul, or the Lion Attacking a Horse, the Spinario (boy with thorn), and of course, the bronze Capitoline Wolf.
I particularly liked the Hall of the Emperors, which contained busts of basically every Roman Emperor you can think of. Similarly, the busts in the Hall of the Philosophers were pretty awesome.
When taking the underground tunnel, you see the Galleria Lapidaria, which contains many marble inscriptions to do with Ancient Roman life. Then you walk through the ruins of the Temple of Veiovis and the Tabularium and come out into a gallery which gives great views of the Roman Forum.
There was so much more to see here, and we spent quite a few hours in these museums, almost an entire day. I’d probably pick these museums over the Vatican Museums, simply because the Capitoline Museums have a lot of busts and statues, which I find more interesting than other forms of art, and they seem to relate a lot more to ancient Rome. Also, they have the added bonus of not being so crowded. They’re definitely worth a visit.