the Piazza Del Popular initially got it's name from the Poplar Plant which grows in the area in roman times but is now knowned as the People's Square. This place was once the once the Porta Flaminia of Rome and also gained notoriety in the middle ages as the place for public executions during the Papal States Period. At Present, this huge square is so popular for hordes of tourists as it can really be crowded with people at most times as the square houses many attractions such as The Egyptian Obelisk of Ramses II at the center of the Square, The twin churches (the chiese gemelle) of Santa Maria dei Miracoli (1681) and Santa Maria in Montesanto (1679), The Porta del Popolo gate, the Fontana del Nettuno, Fontana dell' Obelisco and the infamous Santa Maria del Popolo and one of it's side chapels, the Chigi Chapel (where the path of Illumination Started in the Angels and Demons Movie of 2009 by Tom Hanks). The plaza was designed in neoclassical style and was built in 1822.
Piazza del Popolo (people square) is a large square at one of the sides of Via del Corso. It laids under the Pincio, one of the best spot where to have a great view of the city. At the center of the square there is one of the oldest Obelysks in Rome, it has been brought from Egypt during the 10th century BC.
In the square there are also three important churches: Santa Maria del Popolo, Santa Maria in Montesanto and Santa Maria dei Miracoli. In particular Santa Maria del Popolo is interesting as inside there are two wonderful paintings of Caravaggio and elegant statues by Bernini.
This square was designed in the beginning of the 19th century by the architect Giuseppe Valadier. In the centre of it there is an Egyptian obelisk of Ramesses II from Heliopolis surrounded by four small fountains. The via del Corso exits between the twin churches of Santa Maria in Montesanto and Santa Maria dei Miracoli, both build in the 17th century. The Porta del Popolo, beyond which lies the Piazzale Flaminio, stands to the north. On each side of the square, east and west, stand fountains designed by Giovanni Ceccarini.
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 grisly public executions. Bernini's monumental Porta del Popolo is on the north side of the piazza and opens to Piazzale Flaminio and basilica 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-identical 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, on the eastern end, to the piazza with a staircase and winding road up to terraced gardens and Piazzale 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 piazzale and Villa Borghese.
Although there might be bigger squares in the city, I believe Piazza del Popolo is the largest we got to see, or at least the most impressive. The "people's square" dates back to the end of the 16th century, when Pope Sixtus V decided to move the 3,000-year-old Egyptian obelisk that used to stand in the Circus Maximus to this area located just south of the Aurelian Wall. He also commissioned the construction of two twin churches, Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria in Montesanto, at the meeting point of Via del Babuino, Via del Corso and Via di Ripetta. Those three streets branching out from Piazza del Popolo are referred to as the "trident". Until 1826, gruesome public executions were held in the square.
Before the invention of railroads and airplanes, travelers got their very first look at the city when they reached the piazza via the Porta del Popolo. For this reason, in the early 19th century, an architect was hired to beautify the piazza. Giuseppe Valadier's major improvements were to give the piazza its oval shape and add three fountains: a group of four lion fountains around the obelisk at the center of the piazza, Neptune's fountain on the west side of the piazza, and a fountain representing Rome standing between the Tiber and Aniene rivers was erected on the east side. This fountain stands below the Pincio gardens, which Valadier also designed. His design included a stairway to connect the piazza with the gardens, and several terraces that offer beautiful views of the piazza down below. The gardens' broad alleys lead to the Villa Borghese and are graced with several trees and statues, an Egyptian-style obelisk dating back to the 2nd century AD, and a water clock that was presented at the 1867 Paris Universal Exposition.
As a side note, one of my favourite memories of my trip to Rome is when we got to sit on the steps of the Fontana dell' Obelisco in the middle of Piazza del Popolo and listen to a busker rock out on his electric guitar (you can watch my little video). He might not have been the best player I've ever heard, but his energy was contagious and listening to Metallica's "Master of Puppets" next to the Aurelian Wall felt a bit surreal, to say the least!
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 is a large, open, almost empty square, redesigned in 1816, and contains one of Rome's many obelisks, this one of Ramese II. It's a pleasant place, and seems less popular (no pun intended!) than many of the other squares; it wasn't crowded at all.
The paving of the square was allegedly paid for by taxes levied on prostitution, and the piazza was once a place for public executions, the last of which took place in 1826. There are three fine churches around the square, and fountains around the base of the obelisk as well as to the east and west of the square. There is also the Porta del Popolo, the northern gate of the Aurelian Walls, once the Porta Flaminia of Ancient Rome. It was reconstructed to it's current appearance by Pope Alexander VII in 1655.
Just around the corner are the gates to the Villa Borghese (2nd photo).
First laid out in 1538 this Piazza features a Obelisk brought to Rome by the Emperor Augustus and is flanked by the twins churches Chiesa de Santa Maria Del Miracoli and Chiesa de Santa Maria in Montesanto.
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.