Playing in a Papal Fortress

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CASTEL SANT’ANGELO, ROMA

You may not be able to see the Sistine Chapel during the papal conclave, but you can visit this former pope’s residence, and it’s a whole lot more fun than being shushed by Vatican guards. The castle is still property of the Vatican, and it is connected to it via a cool crenulated wall. Originally Emperor Hadrian’s tomb, this monolithic structure had many purposes over the centuries, including papal fortress, where the pope could escape to when under attack.

During the Sack of Rome, in 1527, Pope Clement VII (de’ Medici) put the fortress to use, escaping from the Vatican to the safety of the castle, by running down the secret corridor, or Passetto di Borgo, the battlement wall connecting the two.

Exploring the many rooms, terraces, arms, and treasures inside the castle is a blast, but wandering around its park, formerly the moat, is a joy of its own. Grass, benches, and a children’s playground make it fun for all ages. Bring a soccer ball or a picnic and enjoy some much appreciated down time in the Roman sun.

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