Castel Sant’Angelo by Night, August 26, 2016.
It is 7:00pm, I park my car across from Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II and head towards Castel Sant’Angelo, for a night tour with L’Asino D’Oro.
I was quite excited, as I had never been inside the Castle and the prospect of being able to go at night, was special!
Let me take a quick step back.
Castel Sant’Angelo by Night
I came across L’Asino D’Oro, purely by chance and thought it could be interesting.
Over dinner with a friend of mine, I told her about my discovery.
She told me she had taken part in a number of their tours and highly recommended them.
Well, the following day, I subscribed to their website and kept track of the tours on offer. See below for their contact links.
One fine day, while reviewing their (well made) Newsletter, I find the Notti D’estate a Castel Sant’Angelo tour.
I got in touch with the team at L’Asino D’Oro and within no time at all, I was provided all the info and got signed up!
Now you might think this is normal but this type of customer service in Italy has to be commended.
Fast forward to the day of the tour, 7:00pm, park my car etc etc etc and I reach Ponte di Sant’Angelo! Breathtaking by day or night!
The Castel Sant’Angelo bridge, even though it is beautiful to look at, also has a dark history that is closely tied to Castel Sant’Angelo.
To put it into perspective, I am talking ‘The Red Wedding’ from Game of Thrones, kind of dark!
I find Ilaria at the entrance, register, pay, get my receipt, and off we go!
From the moment we step inside the grounds, Ilaria has the whole groups attention, as she takes us back to the beginnings of this majestic building.
At this stage, we are up close and personal, admiring the grandeur of the Castle.
History at a Glance
Castel Sant’Angelo is also known as the Mausoleum of Hadrian, named after the roman emperor (117 to 138).
The construction started in 135 and finished 4 years later! This included the magnificent Ponte Sant’Angelo (not its original name), without the statues.
The original design of Castel Sant’Angelo is still uncertain, as it has gone through various expansions over the centuries.
Emperor Hadrian did not see his work of art , as he died in 138, one year before it was completed.
The Mausoleum became a resting place for other Roman Emperors, the last of which, was Emperor Caracalla in 217.
Eventually it was turned into a fortress during the fall of the Roman Empire, however, it did not resist the siege and the original artifacts were stolen. It was not going to be the last time either.
Becoming Castel Sant’Angelo
In 1377, the Papal State acquired the fortress.
It was strategically located between the Tiber and the Vatican City and it was converted into a proper castle.
To provide safe passage to the Popes, the Passetto del Borgo was built (a wall like structure that connects to St Peter’s Basilica), for a quick and fortified exit in the event of any emergency.
It was also a prison, where many executions took place and sometimes the bodies were displayed on the bridge in front of the Castle as a way to deter other criminals.
At the top of the castle you can admire a large statue, this was added during the Renaissance and depicts Archangel Michael, with a sword in his hand.
The Archangel Michael honors an old legend which has given the castle its name.
The legend says that the Angel Michael appeared on the top of the Mausoleum, in 590 and he sheathed his sword, marking the end of the plague that had tormented Rome.
In 1925 it was renovated and served as a national museum.
The many different roles the Castle has played are all here to discover, from the funeral passage of Hadrian, to the beautifully frescoed rooms and the enthralling history.
Local Tip: Do not miss the chance to get to the top by day or night, with a tour or no tour, for some amazing views of St. Peters Basilica and the rest of the Eternal City.
A special mention for Ilaria, our tour guide! She was awesome, answering everyone’s questions with a passion and incredible knowledge.
Let’s not forget the smile on her face the whole time!
L’Asino D’Oro is a cultural association and they offer great tours at great prices! Their website is currently only in Italian, however, do Contact Them for any queries.
This post was not paid for by L’Asino D’Oro, as with any of them on my site so I can honestly recommend these guys, for your tour of Castel Sant’Angelo by night.
Do note that you can book tickets directly, without needing to take part in a tour. However, some parts of the Castle (Passetto del Borgo for example) can only be accessed with an official tour guide and at the end of the day, a great tour is always better than going solo – in particular if it’s your first time.
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Thank you for reading Tourist by Chance and ciao e a presto!