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The adjoining piazza del Campidoglio is one of the most pleasant places in Rome to sit, and especially so in the evening. The museums here are open certain weeknights and Saturday evenings. Though you may have to make do with a bit of curbing to sit on, the beauty of the piazza and the lack of cars make it exceptionally conducive to a respite. Since Michelangelo was the planner, this is not entirely surprising. Even the approach along the Cordonata alerts the senses to something out of the ordinary at the top.

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The Campidoglio (Capitoline Hill) is the smallest of Rome's famous seven hills, but it is the most imposing because it was the spiritual and political center of the Roman world the Forum was built on its slopeand Christmassale it remains the seat of city government to this day. It is especially brilliant each April 21, when the city celebrates its birthday by illuminating the facades of the buildings with hundreds of dish candles.

The equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius that once graced the center of the piazza (the only equestrian statue that has survived from Imperial Rome) has been relocated to a side courtyard after restoration, and the dramatic if less brilliant statues of Castor and Pollux stand at the top of the steps. At the right is the Palazzo dei Conservatori, in which the Conservators' Palace Museum is found. Its courtyard is unmistakably Roman; the enormous head and hand of Constan tine, and odds and ends of limbs from the statue that was in his basilica in the Forum, line the warm apricot walls of the court.

On the stairs is the figure of Charles of Anjou, whose ambitions were ended by the Sicilian Vespers revolt; it is the only medieval portrait statue in Rome. In this extensive Classical collection the statues are mainly copies of Greek originals the Thorn Extractor is notable, but the portrait busts from Augustus to Nero and Tiberius are the prizes. Here Roman art did not follow the Greek patterns but showed the rulers in unidealized portraits. The Etruscan bronze statue of the she wolf with the nursing twins, Romu lus and Remus, that Pollaiuolo added, is also here; its im print is on everything in Rome, from state seals to sewer covers. The Museo Nuovo wing is devoted to the Renais sance: paintings by Bellini, the Carracci, Caravaggio, Lotto, Reni, and others.

Directly across the piazza, in the Palazzo Nuovo, is the Museo Capitolino, where the ancient god Marforio lies in seductive indolence in the courtyard. His name is assumed he's one of the talking statues to which verses were at tached, usually satiric poems directed at the celebrities of the time.

Hadrian's villa at Tivoli was awash with splendid mosaics, and some of them are now here, in the Room of the Dove. The theme is Love: Eros and his Roman counterpart, Cupid, with Psyche and the Capitoline Venus. Among the fine statuary are the poignant Dying Gaul; the Marble Faun (a satyr figure attributed to Praxiteles, and the marble faun of Haw throne's last novel); and the Wounded Amazon (a copy), which was sculpted for a competition at Ephesus, where the cult of Diana thrived.

The remaining building on the piazza is the Palazzo del Senatorio, where the local government meets. In back of it splendid views of the Forum unfold (by day and night).
To the west a couple of blocks on the via del Teatro di Marcello, in front of piazza del Campidoglio, is the Teatro di Marcello, Julius Caesar's first contribution to the dramatic world. Its impressive if fragmentary current state is en hanced by the oddity of its having apartments above. Known as the Palazzo Orsini, it is still inhabited by the Orsini family, who have perhaps the best view in Rome. (The stylish Vecchia Roma restaurant is close by, and is recommended for lunch.)

Down via del Teatro di Marcello toward the Tiber, before piazza Bocca delia verita, stands the sturdy, newly restored Arco di Giano (Arch of Janus) in a valley (now behind a parking lot) where cattle dealers gathered in the days of the Empire, sheltering themselves inside the arch. On the far side of the arch is the delightful church of San Giorgio in Velabro, named for the marsh in which Romulus and Remus were found. (The Palatine Hill is just beyond.) The church often bears the red carpet that awaits a wedding party, presided over by 13thcentury frescoes.

The beautifully sculpted arch adjoining the church, erected in A.D. 204 in honor of Septimius Severus and his sons, is called the Arco degli Argentari (Arch of the Money Lenders). And again, after Caracalla murdered his brother, Geta, he removed Geta's name from the arch, as on the Arch of Septimius Severus in the Forum. On the pilasters contemporary views of the Forum provide the background.

As you turn back toward the Tiber, across the broad boulevard is the exquisite round marble Tempio di Vesta, really a temple to Hercules, some think, and the socalled Tempio delia Fortuna Virile (both second century B.C.). At the end of the street is the medieval church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, famous for the open mouth of truth, the Bocca delia verita, on the porch. Hordes of tourists wait in line to see if it will snap off their hand if they tell a lie.

The face was a medieval drain cover, but its appeal is not diminished by that knowledge. The Sixth century church was later en larger and given to the colony of Greek refugees. The floor is a rare example of mosaics produced by the Cosmati themselves, most floors being only Cosmatesque; geometrical designs signal their work.

Turn left at the corner by Santa Maria and walk to the next wide street, via del Circo Massimo. Across it, a winding road from the piazzale Romolo e Remo ascends the Aventine Hill; by following it you'll see the loveliest rose gardens in Rome (in May) and the orange trees of the church of Santa Sabinaand the view of Rome from the balustrade in the little Savello park by the church. The church is an elegant example of a fifth century basilica, wonderfully lit by clerestory windows and impressive looking with its Corinthian columns, but the drama is in its simplicity. In 1222 it was given to Saint Dominic, who was founding a new religious order, and the Dominicans still preside here. On the porch is a carved cypress door (under glass); the crucifix at the top left is apparently the oldest known representation of Christ on the Cross.

Continue southwest after Santa Sabina to piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta, a Piranesidesigned space most famous for the keyhole at number 3 that frames St. Peter's dome so beauti fully. The Aventine is an obviously wealthy residential neighborhood (money belts advised), and it is a joy to stroll up and down its slopes, away from the hubbub of the city. If you have time, stop also at the ancient churches of Santa Prisca, built over a Mithraic temple (being excavated), and San' Saba, on the other side of piazza Albania to the southeast of the hill.
For lunch, go across via della Marmorata from the Aventine to the outskirts of Testaccio, an old neighborhood where the slaughterhouses once stood, and that is still famous for res taurants that specialize in cooking innards.

Wonderful vegetables are also a specialty of the inexpensive trattorias that dot the area. Perilli is a favorite on via della Marmorata, which leads from the ponte Sublicio to the Porta San Paolo, but stop first up the street at Volpetti (number 47) to see one of the most marvelous (and expensive) shops for cheese and other delicacies, including a mortadella like no other. Try the very strong Pugliese ricotta forte and varieties of fresh mozzarella; tasting is encouraged. Rome's housing shortage has brought the young and chic to this once funky neighborhood.

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