Another of the Eternal City's icons is the majestic Castel Sant'Angelo (also known as The Mausoleum of Hadrian), built as a tomb for Emperor Hadrian and, over the centuries, used for different purposes, from defence fortress and dungeon to Renaissance residence and, today, museum and venue for cultural and social events. Different uses have also led to significant alterations and expansions on the original structure, creating a complex network of basements, cells, rooms, loggias, stairways and courtyards.
In the "Castle's dungeon," the parlor and tiny cells were where prisoners were locked up. Benvenuto Cellini was confined in one of them for almost a year. The Hall of Justice can be described as suggestive and disturbing at the same time; it was where all the condemned people were sentenced to death.And it was right here that Pope Clement VIII ordered the death penalty for Beatrice Cenci, and where Giordano Bruno was tortured.
During the phase in which it was used as a residence, the Castle was subject to decorations as to make it suitable for hosting highly distinguished personalities. The Pauline Hall is an outstanding exemplar, with frescoes by Perin del Vaga. Other rooms, such as the Hall of Cupid and Psyche and that of Perseus, the Hall of the Garlands, the Treasury,and the Columns and the Rotunda Halls are also wonderful examples.
The Terrace, with the statue of the angel that stands next to the bell (in the past to announce death sentences), is where the suicide of Tosca is set; the character, as narrated in Puccini's opera, threw herself from the Castle after the treacherous murder of her lover Cavaradossi.
In summertime, the Castle livens up with shows and exhibitions, restaurants and bars offering visitors an entertaining evening within an extraordinary setting. The wonderful panorama of Rome is visible from the Terrace, and the famous Passetto is even more spectacular when the city lights illuminate the the Tiber River and beyond after sunset.