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Tour 8
-From San Clemente to the Capitoline Hill-

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  • The Church of San Clemente. One of the most interesting places in Rome. At street level there is the Church of San Clemente dating back to the XII century and featuring magnificent mosaics in the apse, while at a lower level there is the older Church of the sixth century with impressive frescoes and an ancient immersion baptismal font.
    The lower floor hosts two other buildings from the Roman era tracing back to the I and II century AD, where it is still possible to recognise rooms used as a school and for the Mithraic rituals, as well as parts of a Roman insula, which probably belonged to the consul Clemente (Clemens).
  • Colosseum
  • Go ahead in the direction of the Arch of Constantine. It was built in 315 AD upon request of the Roman Senate to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Constantine’s empire and his victory over Maxentius. It is the last building erected in Rome as the capital of the Roman Empire, because a few years later, in 330 AD, Constantine shifted the capital to Constantinople.
  • Beyond the Arch, leaving the Colosseum behind you, walk along Via di San Gregorio. On your left you will see the Caelian Hill, on whose top a temple dedicated to Emperor Claudius was built in the I century AD, while on your right there is the Palatine Hill.
  • On this site there are the remains of archaic huts dating back to about 1000 b. C.
    Here lived Romulus, the first king of Rome in 753 b. C, and the emperors as well. The term “Palazzo” (“Palace”) comes from the Latin name of the hill, i.e. “Palatino” (“Palatine”). Few meters away you will see the stump of the aqueduct which supplied water to the imperial palaces.
  • Once in Piazza di Porta Capena, you will notice on your left two columns of grey marble, not very tall but richly adorned: they are original columns tracing back to about 2000 years ago, which were placed here to commemorate the people who lost their lives during the terrible attack to the Twin Towers in New York on 11 September 2001.
  • Now turn right, always on the right of the Palatine Hill: from this perspective, the buildings of the imperial palaces are more visible. On your left you will see the Aventine Hill and, between these two hills in the valley, you will find the famous Circus Maximus, where races with two-horse, three-horse and four-horse chariots took place already since the fifth century b. C. The races were events of great importance and used to draw a multitude of people. The Circus could host up to 250,000 spectators. The 4 teams wore different colours: green, red, blue and white. The chariots had to run 7 times around the spina, a central wall that marked the lane. Each lap corresponded to 1 Roman mile, equivalent to 1480 steps.
  • Few meters away you will find the Forum Boarium. An extraordinary jewel of Rome, the centre and the heart of this city and its origins. Rome and its economic wealth are based on this Forum. More than 1000 years ago and up to the first century b. C, this site was the port of Rome! Now all makes sense and the puzzle is solved: the circular Temple of Hercules Victor, the protector of merchants, the rectangular temple dedicated to Portunus, the protector of the Port, the Arch of Janus of the IV century AD, the intersection of two streets that meet there, leading to the Roman Forum, a place where trade and business used to take place.
    It is also worth mentioning the Fontana dei Tritoni (“Fountain of the Tritons”), carried out in the 18th century by Bizzaccheri, and the Byzantine Basilica of St. Mary in Cosmedin whose cloister hosts a large man-like mask universally known as La Bocca della Verità (“The Mouth of Truth”).
  • Going ahead along Via Petroselli: on your right, you will notice two buildings featuring the typical architectural style of the Fascist era 1920-43. On the right corner, you will see the archaeological site of S. Omobono with the remains of the archaic Temples dedicated to Fortuna and Mater Matuta.
  • On the left corner there is the Church of San Nicola in carcere (St. Nicholas in prison), an incredible example of how ancient architectural elements have been reused and integrated into other later buildings. By now, the columns of 3 archaic temples, the medieval bell tower and the Renaissance façade of the church are parts of the same structure, not to mention the fact that the rooms below were used as prison cells. Hence the name given to the church.
  • Now turn right and go ahead. In front of you, you will see the columns of the Temple of Saturn in the Roman Forum, follow the road uphill on the left (with the booth of traffic officers) and you will reach a ledge with a breath-taking view of the Forum; turn left, go ahead again and you will get to Piazza del Campidoglio (“Capitoline Square), on the top of the Capitoline Hill.
  • In ancient times this was the upper part (the acropolis of the city). Here temples dedicated to various divinities used to be built, here the important events of the Roman history occurred. Here in 1144, during the Middle Ages, the power of local families administering the state took shape and consolidated. By exploiting the existing building of the Roman Tabularium, (a sort of archive of the I century b. C.), the Senators’ and Conservators’ Palace were built to host the places and headquarters of the local administration.

  • On the former Temple of Juno Moneta (the national mint of the Roman Empire) the Franciscan church of S. Maria in Ara Coeli  (St. Mary of the Altar of Heaven) was erected in the twelfth century.
  • Only in 1536 Pope Paul III decided to modernise the square. Thanks to Michelangelo’s talent and skills, the whole world can admire the current Piazza del Campidoglio, the symbol of the Italian Renaissance. Michelangelo decided to position there a bronze statue depicting Marcus Aurelius, by shifting it from the Lateran Basilica; decorated the façade of the Senators’ and Conservators’ Palace, designed the Cordonata (the staircase that leads to Piazza del Campidoglio) and Palazzo Nuovo (symmetrical to the Conservators’ Palace ) and worked on the square pavement. However, Michelangelo could not witness the accomplishment of his last 3 projects, because he died in 1564, when he was almost 90 years old.
  • The beauty and harmony of the square is amazing. The inclination of the 2 lateral palaces (which now host the Capitoline Museum) towards the outside results in a curious optic effect. In fact, the piazza looks much larger than its actual size. The two statues on top of the Cordonata are the twin brothers Castor and Pollux, the patron deities of the chivalric order.
    On the top a column situated on the corner of Palazzo Senatorio there is a sculpture depicting the symbol of Rome, the Capitoline Wolf.



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