Castel Sant'Angelo was first built as a tomb by Emperor Hadrian and slowly transformed into a fortress, where the Popes passed long periods during sieges.
Its name derives from the Angel Michael, which appeared at the top of the Castle to announce the end of a terrible plague at the time of Pope Gregory the Great.
The imposing structure can be seen entirely from the end of St. Angel Bridge, decorated by Gianlorenzo Bernini's angels. Despite its stern appearance, it hides beautiful treasures and finely decorated interiors.
It was also a jail where famous prisoners were detained: Giordano Bruno, the Dominican priest, burnt for heresy in the middle of Campo de Fiori square; Beatrice Cenci, a noblewoman, beheaded for the murder of her abusive and violent father; Benvenuto Cellini, the famous goldsmith which dared to replace with fakes, some of the precious stones of the papal tiara; Cagliostro, the famous alchemist, mason, and healer passed here 16 months in a luxury prison now called Cagliostra. It was portrayed as a jail in the famous Dan Brown's best-seller, Angels and Demons.
The Pauline Hall is the fanciest part of the castle, with the nearby Papal Bedroom and Throne Chamber decorated with the mythological stories of Perseus and Love and Psyche and connected with the smallest and cutest spa in the world, the stufetta.
Along the walls of the hall built by Paul III, Perin del Vaga, a pupil of Raphael, painted the enterprises of Alexander the Great; odd animals and servants carrying fruits popping up from fake doors.
It is part of the Angels and Demons tour, following the plot of the famous book by Dan Brown.
In summer, the dungeons and the Passetto are opened to the public, and concerts are held in the castle at night.
The castle is a stone's throw from the Vatican, and one of the few places open until 7, even in winter.
A cafè and tables with a view are at the top of the castle.
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