Through a portal in 3rd-century Aurelian Walls, many a traveler to ancient Rome would have arrived at this piazza as it was the celebrated entrance/exit of the Via Flaminia: the main route to the north. In the 18th and 19th centuries it was also the site of public executions. Bernini's monumental Porta del Popolo is on the north side of the piazza and leads to Piazzale Flaminio and the church of Santa Maria del Popolo. In the center of the piazza is an Egyptian obelisk of Rameses II that Caesar Augustus brought to Rome and which originally stood in the Circus Maximus. To the south are the not-quite-twin churches of Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria in Montesanto, both dating from the 17th century.
The piazza was overhauled in the early 1800's by Giuseppe Valadier, who cleared away some old structures to create a more open space. He also connected Pincian Hill, to the east, to the piazza with a staircase and winding road up to terraced gardens and Piazzele Napoleon I's panoramic vistas of the city. If you're up to climbing the steps, this is a fun and scenic way to access Pincio Gardens, the piazzele and Villa Borghese.
In ancient Rome (and in the comparatively not too distant past before automobiles, trains, and planes), visitors to the city typically entered from the north, through the northern gate called Porta Flaminia after traveling down the Via Flaminia. Today visitors most likely see this gate by walking from within the city, having already arrived by some form of modern transportation.
Next to the Porta del Popolo (which is the new name for the Porta Flaminia) is the wide open pedestrian area called the Piazza del Popolo, which means “People’s Square” but historically refers to the poplar trees that grew in the area and influenced the name of the famous church on the piazza – Santa Maria del Popolo.
In the very center of this oval shaped piazza is an Egyptian obelisk, one of the tallest in Rome at nearly 79 feet high, that dates back to pharaoh Seti I and Ramses II (1400-1300 BC). Its inscriptions extol the glory of the two pharoahs. Augustus brought the obelisk to Rome in 10 BC after the conquest of Egypt; it was originally set up in the Circus Maximus until it was moved to the Piazza del Popolo in 1589 by the same architect that moved another obelisk to St. Peter’s Square under the direction of Pope Sixtus V. The base of the obelisk has fountains with Egyptian looking lions carved in stone.
The piazza forms the joint of the Tridente – a three-street juncture that, when looking at an aerial view would appear to be a trident with the Via Flaminia being the handle and three main roads in Rome (Via del Corso, Via del Babuino, and Via di Ripetta) branching off from the piazza.
The Porta del Popolo was renovated in 1655 by Bernini in preparation for Queen Christina of Sweden’s triumphal entry in Rome – dressed as an Amazon on horseback – after she converted to Roman Catholicism and abdicated the throne; she lived in Rome, founded an academy for literature and political science and is buried below St. Peter’s with many other famous people and popes.
Next to the Porta del Popolo is the church of Santa Maria del Popolo, most famous today for its art, specifically two fantastic Caravaggios, Crucifixion of St. Peter and Conversion of St. Paul.
On the opposite end of the piazza are two Baroque churches from the 1600s that would appear to be identical, although they are not symmetrical: Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria in Montesanto. The facades of these two churches were designed by Carlos Rinaldi and redone by Bernini and Carlo Fontana.
On the east end of the piazza is a green area called the Pinco park that serves as a connection to the Villa Borghese gardens and Villa Medici. These terraced gardens used to be part of the Augustinian monastery that was part of the church of Santa Maris del Popolo and has a waterfall and pedestrian steps. The road, which switchbacks up the hill, has a huge fountain and is lined with statues of Dacian prisoners.
The Piazza del Popolo is a short walk from the Spanish steps and worth a visit on your walking tour of Rome.
This was right by my hotel, so i got a chance to see this when i was brand new in Rome.
This was once the terminus of the road from Rome north, the Via Flaminia. For a long time this was the first place a visitor would see in Rome. It is a very large and attractive square.
At its center is the Egyptian obelisk of Seti. This was taken from the Temple of the Sun in Heliopolis and brought to Rome in 10 BC. The obelisk is 24 meters tall and is one of the oldest and tallest in Rome. Originally it was installed in the circus maximus to commemorate the conquest of Egypt. It was moved to its present location in the 16h century.
In my photo you will see the door behind the obelisk is the Porta del Popolo. This is actually farther away, but it was the terminus of the Via Flaminia, the road north.
This lovely square has twin churches and a fountain which is popular with people having their photos taken while sitting on its stone lions. I thought it was very pretty. It is very close to the Borghese Gardens. Get here by taking metro line A to Flamini Station. Enter the square through an arched gate. There is another church to your left as you enter.
This was the only place in Rome we encountered rose sellers but they were not too sticky and seemed to understand the word no.
At one point of time, all roads may have lead to Rome but the one place all ancient visitors coming from the north reached before branching out to different parts of Rome, was the Piazza del Popolo. They entered this square, situated at the end of Via Flamania through the Porta del Popolo, Rome's northernmost gate in the Aurelian wall, adjacent to the Santa Maria del Popolo Church. The Via Flaminia, built in 220 BC, connected Rome with the Adriatic coast and was, therefore, an important road linking Rome to the rest of the world.
The name of the square itself comes either from the Italian word for 'hamlet' or from the populus tree growing in that area. Today, this place allows you six, if not more, 'must-see' tourist attractions, viz., the square itself with its obelisk and fountains; three churches; Pincian Hills; panoramic and sunset views of the Basilica of St. Peter's, the Victor Emmanuel Monument as well as of entire Rome. Two other sights, rather close by, are the Villa Borghese and the Villa Medici.
Straight ahead is the broad Via del Corso (Road of the Course) leading directly to the Roman Forum. In days of yore, horse races used to take place along this route with Piazza Venezia being the finishing line. By its side, the Via del Babunio takes you to the Spanish Steps. The third road, the Via di Ripetta links this square to the Vatican. These three roads make up the 'Trident of Rome'. The Santa Maria in Montesanto (12-sided dome) and the Santa Maria Miracoli (octagonal dome) churches sit on either side of the Via del Corso. From one corner of the Piazza, a flight of windy stairs takes you to Piazza Napoleone and beyond to the leafy Pincian Hills.
At the centre of the piazza, drawing full attention to itself, stands an ancient 1300 BC obelisk which earlier stood in Circus Maximus, over 3 kms away. It was Emperor Octavian Augustus who transported this 80 ft. (24 m) tall granite obelisk to Rome from the Sun Temple in Heliopolis, an ancient city of Egypt, near the Nile to mark the conquest of Egypt. It was brought to its present site on March 5, 1589 on the orders of Pope Sixtus V and placed beside an octagonal fountain. At the top of the obelisk is a bronze Italian cross atop three hills and a star - all heraldic symbols of the family to which Pope Sixtus V belonged.
In 1823, Giuseppe Valadier, the foremost architect of that time, was commissioned to reconstruct the square. He removed the old fountain made by Giacomo Della Porta, added a platform to the obelisk, raising its height to a grand 110 ft (34 m) and constructed a square fountain with four lions sprouting water from its mouth on each of the four sides. The lions were an obvious reference to the family coat of arms of Pope Sixtus V who had commissioned the project two centuries ago. The eastern and western boundaries of the piazza were marked off with a curved wall and a fountain each. The square itself is a pedestrain-free area covered with black cobble stones.
Behind and to the top of this square is the steep Pincian Hill, earlier dotted with luxurious houses belonging to the wealthy and powerful families of Rome. Not surprisingly, the hill was named after one of these families, the Pincii, owners of one of the largest estates. Each of these families kept large gardens ('horti'), eventually giving the place another name, 'the Hill of Gardens'. ‘Casina Valadier’, now a historic cafe, was the house meant for the great architect. Unfortunately, he passed away before he could move into his new mansion. The busts of many famous men in Italian history dot the landscape here. The one of Angelo Secchi, a former director of the Astronomy Observatory, is placed exactly at the point where the Rome Meridian crosses.
First Written: Nov. 11, 2012
I walked down to the Piazza del Popolo after spending much of the day up the hill at the Borghese Gardens. It is true to say that the scale of the piazza is grand by anyones standard.
There are some interesting architectural features such as the Porta del Popolo which is one of the old gates into Rome (medieval) and the twin churches either side of Via Del Corso - Santa Maria del Miracoli and Santa Maria in Montesanto.
The squares main church is Santa Maria del Popolo and I was surprised at how tucked away in a corner it seems. Sadly it was closed when we got there and so we couldn't go inside (it closes between 12 noon and 4pm).
The disappointing aspect of the piazza is however how seedy the area feels. There are numerous cafes nearby, in particular at the entrances to teh streets leading off the piazza but all have a tacky, touristy and/or dubious look about them in my opinion and I wasn't at all tempted to linger.
I adore urban planning which unites streets, buildings, monuments and piazzas into one harmonious whole. Piazza del Popolo is the perfect example in Rome.
Originally (1538) this was the grand entrance to the city of Rome from the north, through the Porta del Popolo gate in the wall. Entering through this gate you see a piazza in the shape of a perfect circle, a 36 meter high Egyptian obelisk in the center, and twin Baroque churches at the far end, standing guard at the starting point of Via del Corso: Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria in Montesanto.
The road leading west from the piazza, V. F. di Savoia, leads directly to the bridge of Regina Margherita on the Tiber, and then on the west bank of the river it changes to Via Cola di Renzio leading to the Piazza di Risorgimento and the walls of the Vatican.
Undoubtedly, the best spot to see this whole Roman vista is the Pincio Hill garden, on the border of the Villa Borghese gardens: This view is certainly worth the climb!
Piazza del Popolo is People’s square (popolo is people in Italian) but according to my guide book its name comes from poplars, the flower plant.
The square is very big and its one of the places that people gather for major events like New Years Eve, football celebrations etc 2 centuries before it was a place for public executions too but that cant be seen anymore (don’t bother to look for them in Colosseum, nothing there too).
You can see the Porta del Popolo(pic 1) which was the Porta Flaminia in ancient Rome when the square was just inside the northern gate in the Aurelian Walls that surrounded the city. The walls were demolished many centuries before but the square is enclosed by semicircular walls that date from the beginning of 19th century.
The morning we visited there was a small festival about babies (pic 2). I think the square is ugly but it looked much better during the night(pic 3).
In the center of the square you can see the obelisco Flaminio(Popolo Obelisk )(pic 4), a tall Egyptian obelisk that was erected by Rameses II from Heliopolis although 3 sides of it are carved by Sety I and only one by Ramesses. It was brought to Rome in 10BC but originally it was set up in the Circus Maximus until 1589 when it moved here.
At the bottom of the obelisk is the Fontana dell’Obelisco, where you can have your photo over the lions like every tourist does :) The four small fountains are 4 lions over different stepped plinths at the four corners of the obelisk.
Another fountain on the square is Fontana del Nettuno (pic 5), where you can see Neptune and 2 dolphins.
The People's Square as commonly known in the english world has taken its name from the church of Santa Maria Del Popolo which is also in the plaza.
The plaza is in fact a popular execution until the year 1826. It's now a popular square where people congregate or just sit around the egyptian obelisk - of Ramses II of Heliopolis (Egypt) - and wait for the sunset.
The street Via Ripetta which is one of a branch street of the plaza is a popular pedestrian shopping street, and there are a lot of outdoor cafe and restos here.
The plaza could get very busy with a lot of people and there are first-aide medics on bicycles standing by with an ambulance on the side near the church.
It's also romantic in late afternoon with a musician (sax or violinist) right next to the obelisk playing music that could be heard in the whole plaza. And what would best compliment the romantic atmosphere than people selling roses around here, plenty of them.
The Piazza del Popolo was designed by Valadier at the turn of the century. It is an enormous square, architecturally superb and perfectly symmetrical. In the center stands the city's second obelisk which was brought to Rome by Augustus and re-erected here by Fontana under Sixtus V in 1589. There are two twin churches of Santa Maria on the square - Santa Maria in Montesanto and Santa Maria dei Miracoli.
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