The Piazza del Popolo is one of the most famous Roman squares. During our visit to Rome, it was inevitable that we would go there. Find out its characteristics and some of our photos to see if it will also be part of your itinerary.
That’s why I use both terms in the article.
Where is Piazza del Popolo?
Piazza del Popolo is in the northern part of the historical center of the Italian capital, right next to the gardens of Villa Borghese.
To get there, get off at the Flaminio station by metro line A or streetcar line 2. There are also many bus lines that serve the area around the square, including Piazza Flaminio. Only line 119 will take you directly to Piazza del Popolo.
What can you look at the Piazza del Popolo?
Piazza del Popolo was first laid out in the 16th century by order of Pope Sixtus V. But it was in the nineteenth century that the architect Giuseppe Valadier worked to give it the shape and style that we know today. The square is also characterized by several remarkable buildings.
The Flaminio Obelisk
The first thing you will probably notice is the Flaminio obelisk, which is more than 118 feet high, including its base and the cross that surmounts it.
As you will guess from the hieroglyphic inscriptions, the obelisk comes from Egypt. It was brought to Italy in the year 10 BC by order of the emperor Augustus. It was first installed in the Circus Maximus. Then, at the end of the 16th century, the obelisk in Piazza del Popolo was erected in its current place by Pope Sixtus V.
The Twin Churches
There are two churches in Piazza del Popolo, separated by Via del Corso. Built in the second half of the 17th century, the twin churches of Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria in Montesanto are almost identical. Only a few details distinguish them on their facades.
The Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo
A third church surrounds the Piazza del Popolo, between the Pincio terrace and the Porta del Popolo. Built in the 15th century, the Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo is very popular with visitors, thanks to the presence of works by famous artists such as Raphael, Bernini and Caravaggio.
Porta del Popolo
The Porta del Popolo is part of the Aurelian Wall, which corresponds to the ancient fortifications built at the time of the emperor Aurelian. Formerly named Porta Flaminia, from the name of the street that crosses it, it then took the name of the church that adjoins it. It has undergone several changes between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries, including the work of the architect Nanni di Baccio Bigio and the sculptor Bernini.
As in many other squares and streets of Rome, you will admire fountains in Piazza del Popolo. Fed by the Aqua Virgo aqueduct, which ends at the famous Trevi Fountain, you will see two fountains on either side of the square:
- Fontana del Nettuno (or Neptune’s Fountain) is located on the west side of the square.
- Fontana della dea Roma (or Fountain of the Goddess Rome) is located on the east side of the square, at the bottom of the Pincio hill.
Four other fountains surround the base of the obelisk in Piazza del Popolo. They were each erected in the shape of a lion reminiscent of the Egyptian style.
Is Piazza del Popolo one of the must-see things in Rome?
With Denis, we arrived on the piazza del Popolo from the terrace of the Pincio after a long walk in the Borghese gardens. We took the time to observe it from the top of the hill before going down the ramp to reach the square. Between the Pincio and the square, we spent about 20 minutes there. But if you plan to visit the churches there, you’ll stay a little longer.
Piazza del Popolo is one of the most famous squares in Rome and it’s easy to see why. In one place you will find several centuries, even millennia of history connected to Rome.
If you spend only a weekend in the city, you will probably not have time to go there because places like the Colosseum, the Pantheon or the Vatican are to be preferred. The square is a bit far from these places. However, with 1 or 2 more days, Piazza del Popolo will certainly be part of your visit.
What to do around Piazza del Popolo?
You won’t be spending your day in the square but be aware that there are other points of interest nearby. You can easily plan a half day to explore this part of Rome.
- Villa Borghese: you can spend a long time in its gardens and visit its galleries.
- Leonardo da Vinci museum, dedicated to the inventor, is in
- Piazza del Popolo itself, in the church of Santa Maria del Popolo. The entrance is to the right of the Porta del Popolo
- Piazza di Spagna is another well-known square in Rome.
- Mausoleum of Augustus: you can visit the ruins restored over the last decade and open to the public since 2019.