Castello di Giulio II
Castello di Giulio II
4.5
Saturday
9:30 AM - 6:30 PM
Sunday
9:30 AM - 6:30 PM
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Duration: < 1 hour
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Peter S
Rome, Italy4,471 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Aug 2019
Review covers the Castello di Giulio II, Ostia Antica, Rome
Ostia Antica is a hidden gem of a small town 40 minutes from the centre of Rome by train – explore the three separate but easily identified towns that span >2,400 years; from the beginning of the Ancient Roman Empire through to the Middle Ages and on to the modern day. Well, the 19th century town that has developed along the Viale dei Romagnola and to one side of the Via del Mare. This is where you take a day away from the Eternal City, escape the crowds in the Centro Storico Romano and enjoy a mix of urban and rural images of Italy through the ages.
Getting to Ostia Antica from Rome is easy – take the San Paolo to Ostia Lido train and get off at Ostia Antica station – the seventh stop. Ticket will cost you €1.50. You need to change at Piramide if you’re on the Metro B Line - direction Laurentina – follow the crowds at Piramide - same ticket. Follow the signs from Ostia Antica Station across the footbridge into the town – 250 m. At the Viale dei Romagnola crossing the Castello di Giulio II is clearly visible on your right with the town behind it; if you’re heading towards the Archeological Park (i.e. the scavi/excavations) – once the originally the port of Rome - keep following the signs straight ahead.
Originally located at the mouth of the Tevere, Ostia (i.e. Latin/Ostium/entrance/river mouth) is now 4 km in land (with the modern town of Ostia Lido on the coast). The mouth of the Tevere has shifted further north to Fiumicino. The scavi represents Ancient Rome in all its delightful heritage – 34 ha of housing, public baths, shops, temples, mills, markets, etc. that are typical of local towns through the ages. Frequently compared to the better-known Pompeii – but different.
Then there is the mediaeval village of Ostia Antica – officially the Borgo di Gregoriopolis – behind fortified walls and beneath the walls and towers of the Castello di Giulio II. There are a couple of gates in the walls that open on to the Viale dei Romagnola – enter the first gate into the spacious Piazza della Rocca – il Castello is there to your right.
Marvel at the integrity of this old settlement – so close to the modern city of Rome – robustly inhabited. It’s a museum piece - couple of times each year you’ll find a film crew here taping a heritage television programme. You will also find half-dozen well-placed restaurants and bars (and a gelateria) for that early evening meal before taking the train back to the city. The walking distances are short. At some time during the day, take ten minutes and sit quietly inside the Borgo or just outside the wall in Piazza Umberto 1 and reflect upon the timeliness of it all, including the monument on the wall to the workers who drained the Pontine Marshes hereabouts 130 years ago.
The medieval Borgo is a gem – classical images in the features of the separate buildings, the paving in the piazza and the fountain to one side; the way the houses on the perimeter blend into the walls. Then, of course, there is the castle. The entrance is through an iron gateway set into the wall opposite the Basilica di Sant’Aurea. Check the time of opening on the gate. Typically, this is at the weekend during the summer months. Step down into the earthworks/ditch/moat and cross to the ticket office/Cassa behind the ravelin.
The renovation of Gregoriopolis and the construction of the castle that followed dates from the late 15th century into the beginning of the 16th century around 1,000 years after the original Roman Ostia was abandoned. The work is attributable to Pope Giulio II – and thus the popular name. A papal apartment and complementary artwork were subsequently added.
The Tevere had silted and shifted with the years largely cutting the port off from the sea, although it continued to provide for passenger traffic. Walls and castle provided protection from pirates and maritime/customs control of light shipping until flooding inundated the castle, moat and Borgo creating extensive marshlands in the area. By then the Tevere had shifted permanently one km west leaving the castle high/dry. The castle had a military/service history of <100 years before being abandoned. Four hundred years later – in the modern era - both Borgo and castle were restored.
The castle is small with triangular shape ground plan – designed to fit into the limited space between the Borgo and the river. The walls are the same length and feature a tower in each corner; two level with the battlements and the third substantially higher - perhaps twice the height of the walls. Vision and field of fire would have been good. The higher tower predates the castle by 60 years and had been constructed for much the purpose – control; it was incorporated into the castle
Having collected our tickets, we waited next to the Cassa for the group to form. Our guide arrived and distributed hard helmets – they’ve been provided for a couple of years now – exemplifying the inevitable march of health and safety issues across the country.
The tour begins on the ground floor – narrow passageways with limited headroom through the subterranean space required for ground-level fire positions, utilities, stores, munitions, food, water, etc. sufficient to counter the siege mentality typical of those time; before rescue forces arrived. Dark and, with a moat around it, presumably damp and inhospitable. (For a time during the 19th century the castle was used as prison.)
A steep narrow masonry staircase with rope handrail leads to the floors above. Large open rooms – both original/undeveloped and others modernised – power/climatized/windows – and containing museum artifacts/items in glass cabinets. The guide provided the stories that bring the rooms and contents to life. Then more stairs to the spacious open deck on top – surrounded by the battlements – perhaps 4 m high with crenels (i.e. protected fire positions) with a walkway around the inside from where to fire the muskets/guns of those times. All rather novel, quaint even, but representing the latest in military defence 600 years ago – with increased use of explosives and cannon – and the vulnerability of masonry/brick walls. The castle is in fine well-maintained condition.
And, the ‘pièce de résistance’ of our visit – no, not the frescoes – they come later, but the gorgeous views from the battlements across the surrounding country, Borgo and parklands – spectacular. The view from the top of the high tower is no longer on the guided tour, although it was during our visit two years earlier.
You descend slowly through the papal apartment – long shallow staircase passed wall decorations – fresco paintings and mosaics – taking time to appreciate the stories behind the images courtesy of the guide - and leave the castle through the gate into the piazza.

Peter Steele
20 July 2020
Written July 20, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

35yrdream
Perth, Australia274 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Sep 2014 • Solo
A fortress has been in this ancient borough as far back as the 4 or 5 century. A village grew around the fortress with walls and a moat built around the structures by the 9 century to protect it from regular raids by Saracen pirates.
These walls were further strengthened in the 15 century, and a wide surrounding moat and a large circular tower were built to increase security, as the fortress now collected the customs duties for trade on the Tiber River and nearby salt marshes. The fortress’ duties remained until a siege by the Duke of Alba badly damaged its defences. The fortress’ demise was compounded in 1557 when a flood altered the course of the Tiber River, shifting it to the west. Nevertheless the castle is still here for us to visit today.
Looking at the castle walls; along its perimeter are small openings at regularly spaced intervals, these hint at the Renaissance military fortress it was; more on that later. Access to the castle is via a gate; then a few steps to huge doors that secure the castle. Stepping through the doorway there’s a passageway that leads over a small bridge (which is guess in days past would have had a drawbridge). The portal leads to the central cobblestoned courtyard with a well.
There are 2 doorways in the courtyard, one gives access to a corridor which follows the triangular shape of the castle; off this is a series of smallish stone walled rooms at ground level along the outer wall. These were casements (firing chambers) from where the cannons were fired. All I could think was that the noise must have been deafening in those rooms.
Tucked in one of these rooms is the most spectacular sunken, with a few courses of downward steps to access it, marble bath. Apparently this was the Pope’s bath. I wouldn’t have minded his bath!!
The other door leads to a wide graded ramp, the walls and ceiling vaults have amazing frescoes of the myth of Hercules. Off the spiral ramp are a series of rooms on a number of floors. These were the garrison quarters. The garrison rooms now house a collection of Renaissance pottery which was found either in the castle or the nearby village.
The graded ramp was used to get military equipment and men to the garrison and large external battlements. This fully accessible walkway offers terrific views over the surrounding area. From here you can access a large entrance hall and the Papal apartments which are in the castle keep. It is on the exterior of this wall that the four papal coat of arms displayed on the outside castle walls are visible. Once again the rooms are built one on top of the other; entry is by a narrow, rather dark spiral staircase. On each floor there is a large room. In the room at the highest level there is a garderobe (toilet).
The visit takes about an hour and provides a unique look behind the scenes of a medieval fort that was also a Renaissance Papal residence.
It is free to visit but is only open at 11.00am Thursday and 11.00am Sunday, with a second tour at 12.00pm. Check the website for updated information. These tours are limited to 30 people on a first come first served basis and are guided. You are not able to wander off by yourself and explore. The tour was in Italian but our lady guide was able to explain the basics in English if I asked in my poor Italian. I’m glad I did a bit of my own research on the building and its history, at least this way I had an idea of what was being explained.
To get to Ostia Anticia buy a metro ticket from a newsstand.
A day pass is E6.00, this is good for the bus, regular train and metro.
You need Linea B (blue line) going towards Laurentina. Four stops later arriving at Metro Piramide change trains. You go from one station to the one next door (San Paolo). There are steps down, under a tunnel and steps up to the San Paolo station, there’s a lift here also.
San Paolo is a little tricker, as there are no boards showing which train leaves from what platform (and there are 3), its worth asking from which platform the train to Ostia Antica leaves. There’s no point in being shy otherwise you will be left standing in the station. The day I used the service it was binare 3 (platform 3). Check that the train is going in the direction of Lido/Cristoforo Columbo, once on the train, its 7 stops to Ostia Antica. Once at Ostia Antica there are more stairs to take you under the train line. On exiting the station, there is a blue pedestrian bridge over the highway. Take this and follow the street until you come to an intersection;Ostia Antica Scavi entrance is straight ahead and to the right is the Castle. Follow the road along, the entrance is via an arch and across the village square.
Written January 24, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Guru614
columbus348 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jun 2017 • Family
This castle has a lot of history and unique structure. It is worth visiting if you love history. What was a real surprise for us was the lovely cafe they have at the roof top. The cafe had lovely food and the best view of St. Peter's Basilica. It is definitely worth visiting.
Written July 30, 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

AcesFull
New York630 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
May 2013
When we went to Ostia antica crossing the bridge we saw the castle. Made sure to pass by it on the way out. Julius who commissioned the Sistine chapel had a residence here. Make sure you enter the small gate to the left of the castle. You will enter piazza del Rocco which is one of the most picturesque squares you will ever see. It was like entering a fairy land.
Written June 2, 2013
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Isabella427
Portland, OR51 contributions
3.0 of 5 bubbles
Sep 2023 • Family
We visited the Castle as we waited to for the Ostia Antica golf cart. It's down the road and across the street, about a 7 min walk. It's worth looking at if you already bought your archeological park ticket (Cost about 19 Euro) and it includes the Castle. The courtyard entrance to the Castle is very picturesque - what you imagine a traditional Italian courtyard to be. It was a nice surprise. I went with my elderly mom and she had a bit of a hard time climbing up to the top - not necessarily steps, but the incline can feel steep if you have mobility issues.
After we quickly looked inside the Castle we were curious about the year the Castle was built. What a mistake to ask the gal at the ticket box! She was very rude! She replied by asking what country we were from. When I replied the USA, she decided to be snarky and commented about how Americans know nothing about World History. She continued her judgment by attacking our educational system. It was quite appalling. Here I was making the effort to learn more about what I was seeing, and she had some silly expectation that this Castle (and all Italian history for that matter) should be part of the history lessons in the US!
I simply replied that it was asking too much and that perhaps Italians were stuck knowing about the past while in the USA we're focused on the future. She truly brought out the worst in me as I typically try to have a cultural understanding of the places I visit, but I was so taken aback by the rudeness that I wish I hadn't bother to visit the place.
Written September 20, 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Feb L
Taipei, Taiwan29 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jan 2018 • Family
Several good restaurants within the historical walls of the castle... a great day trip from Rome with a good lunch then take the guide tour in the afternoon with many historical insights (1 hour tour was only in Italian; we don't know of there are other languages available). Several teenager children were interested by the medieval rooms and corridors in the castle and did not fuss. Very pleasant views from the top of the castle especially in good weather.
Written January 21, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

LA_William
3 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Nov 2017 • Solo
Be sure to walk out there at night for those perfect night shots. It was closed on the Thursday that I went, but that my fault, I did not check the schedule.
Written January 18, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Gian Marco L
23 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jun 2017 • Couples
The castle is open to tourists every Saturday and Sunday, from the morning to the late afternoon. Each visit takes less than an hour, and it cost just 3 EUR per person. The guide is included, and she/he may speak English, depending on the the nationalities of people of each group. A maximum of 20 people per time is admitted, because you have to go into the castle through some narrow corridors. Next tour is in half an hour or an hour, depending on the amount of people waiting. Elder people might not be able to visit, as well as people with physical disabilities. Adventurous location for children! The castle was built by Pope Julius 2nd at the end of 15th century, and it was both a military fortress and fluvial customs for ships entering the Tiber river mouth from the sea to go up to Rome. The castle was besieged by Spain Army in 1556, and one year later a destroying flood cut the fluvial meander which has passed close to the castle for a century. With the new stream of the Tiber river far away, the castle was abandoned for centuries. At the beginning of the 18th century, it was adapted as jail for prisoners who were forced to work at archaeological digging in the site where ancient roman ruins were being discovered. I highly appreciated the much more detailed historical description that the guide Valentino told us yesterday. I recommend to visit the Castle, you might easily visit it and the "scavi di Ostia Antica" site the same day.
Written June 18, 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

soramari2014
Rome, Italy7 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Apr 2017 • Friends
Interesting, very well organized tour. We had fun and learned a lot. Wonderful guides and staff. I recommend it strongly.
Written May 1, 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

CATHY A
JACKSON221 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Aug 2013 • Couples
We found two conflicting websites with times and days for tours of this castle. We stayed in an apartment (Rosa Serena) on the grounds so we really wanted to see the inside. The site that is correct is the one that says it's open Thursday and Sunday at 11am and 12pm (and I think there is an extra time on Sunday). The castle is super neat. The tour was mostly in Italian but between one other guest and the guide we managed to get most of the information. We went at 11am and I would recommend that. There were a lot more folks there for the 12pm tour.

I especially loved the paintings on the walls and ceilings that are pagan and were copied from the inside of some local caves by an artist of the time. They were mostly intact and really pretty. I also liked the history of the castle and all the lines of defense if it was invaded.

Anyway it's pretty neat and definitely worth a tour.
Written August 11, 2013
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

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Castello di Giulio II - All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (2024)

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