Right next to the Vittorio Emanuele Monument are the Capitoline Museums. These museums contain a large amount of art and archeological items from many periods in Rome's history. The museums are situated on the Capitoline hill, one of the Seven Hills of Rome, and are built around a famous piazza designed by Michelangelo. This looked like a great place to spend the next part of our afternoon.
Climbing to the Piazza Campidoglio
For the next couple of hours, we toured the Capitoline Museums. Mostly we toured the areas that had statues, busts, mosaics, and sarcophagi from ancient Rome (surreptitiously taking a few [non-flash] shots when the finger-wagging guards weren't looking). Another high point was a new wing covered in glass, containing some very high profile items from antiquity: a bronze of the emperor Constantine, and the original equestrian statue of emperor Marcus Aurelius (the previous location of this statue, out in the center of the piazza Campidoglio outside the museum, has a copy of this).
Ancient Art, Capitoline Museums
The three parts of the Capitoline Museums are connected by the 'conjunction gallery', or Galleria Congiunzione. This is a hall that runs underneath the piazza itself, and connects the various buildings around the piazza. When you enter the Capitoline Museums, you enter into the Palazzo Nuovo -- the only entrance. To get to the other buildings in the museum, we had to go down and through this tunnel-like connection gallery. Down in this gallery were excavations of ancient Roman dwellings.
Also down here is a section of a Roman Tabularium (an official records-keeping office of ancient Rome), which we decided to visit. It was a dark, musty old place with high ceilings and arches. One whole side of the Tabularium had open arches, however, and these open arches opened onto nice, closeup views of the nearby Roman Forum.
Fragments of Ancient Rome
Arch of Septimius Severus
In the museum building on the north side of the Piazza (the Palazzo dei Conservatori) were yet more wonderful works of art. The highlights for us were the Hellenistic statue of the Dying Gaul, the courtyard containing bits and pieces of a huge colossus of Constantine, and the large, reclining statue of the river god Oceanus.