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Piazza del Popolo in Rome – Tips for Visiting, Pictures & How to Get There

Piazza del Popolo (Italian: Piazza del Popolo) or, as it is also called, the People’s Square, is one of the central historic squares of Rome, located inside the north gate in the walls of Aurelian, once the Porta Flaminia in ancient Rome, now called the Porta del Popolo.

From here began Via Flaminia, the road to Ariminum (modern Rimini) and the most important route to the north.

From the square, which has the shape of an oval 100 ? 165 meters, the streets Corso (leading to Piazza Venezia), Babuino (to Piazza di Spagna) and Ripetta (to the Mausoleum of Augustus) radiate southwards.

The corners between the streets are occupied by the similar-looking propylaea churches of Santa Maria dei Miracoli, built in 1681, and Santa Maria in Montesanto, erected in 1679.

Origin of the name

There is no consensus among local historians about the name, at least there are two versions.

According to the first, the name is associated with a large grove of poplar trees surrounding the tomb of Emperor Nero, who died in 65 BC.

In the Latin language the words poplar and people (Latin populus) are homonyms, that is the same in spelling and sound, but different in meaning.

And according to this version, the ghost of Emperor Nero visits the site of his tomb at night.

The second version, which looks more plausible, says that Pope Paschal II (from August 13, 1099 to January 21, 1118) built a chapel near the wall here with people’s money, so the square that appeared in this place was also called People’s Square.

Arrangement of the square

The idea of creating the People’s Square was first proclaimed by Alexander VII, who was Pope from April 7, 1655 to May 22, 1667.

However, the real realization of this idea was started by one of the main representatives of neoclassicism in Italy, the Italian artist and architect of French origin Giuseppe Valadier.

A significant achievement of Valadier-architect and urban planner was the completion in 1816 – 1824 of the ensemble of the Roman Piazza del Popolo and the adjoining terraces of the Pincio Hill.

The completion of the ensemble was preceded by a long design development, from the first drafts of 1793 and 1805 to the variants of 1810 – 1811 and the final solution of 1815.

The ensemble includes an Egyptian obelisk, sculpture, fountains and two rostral columns.

As a result of this project, many buildings of the XV-XVII centuries were united into a classicist ensemble, compositionally linked to the axial street Corso with spectacular perspectives opening in different directions.

Piazza del Popolo is framed by walls forming two semicircles, in plan the square resembles St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican.

Attractions of the square

Egyptian Obelisk

In the center of the square stands the Obelisk of Flaminius, a stone column whose inscriptions praise the deeds of Pharaoh Ramses II.

The obelisk is the second oldest and one of the tallest obelisks in Rome (about 24 meters high or 36 meters including the pedestal).

This obelisk, which is about three and a half thousand years old, was taken from Heliopolis to Rome on the orders of Octavian Augustus in 10 BC as a symbol of Rome’s conquest of Egypt.

For several centuries the obelisk stood in the Great Circus, but due to the destruction of the ancient Great Circus, the obelisk was moved to the northern gate of Rome on the orders of Pope Sixtus V in 1589, when a square was built on the site.


The Egyptian Obelisk is now surrounded by four fountains in the form of white marble lions, an exact replica of those on Capitoline Hill.

In addition to the central Obelisk Fountain, the architectural ensemble of Piazza del Popolo includes two other fountains located in the eastern and western part of the square.

The Eastern Fountain of Rome between the Tiber and Agnene or, as it is also called, the Goddess of Roma, created by Giovanni Ceccarini between 1814 and 1823, is a statue of the Goddess of Rome, at whose feet lies a she-wolf nursing two newborn boys, Romulus and Remus.

The men next to the goddess are symbols of the rivers flowing through Rome. From the fountain, the Napoleonic Staircase rises up to the Pincio Hill.

On the western side is the fountain of Neptune. The lord of the seas and oceans, armed with a trident, is in the company of two tritons.

At the bottom, a small bowl adjoins the travertine stone wall, and beneath it is a large sea shell, from which the water cascades into the lower basin.


There are several churches around the square, the oldest of which is Santa Maria del Popolo, created in 1099 under Pope Pasquale II as a chapel to commemorate the First Crusade.

According to legend, it stands on the spot where the famous Emperor Nero was buried. Between 1472 and 1477, and later between 1655 and 1660, the ancient church was reconstructed, remodeling the facade and adding Baroque elements.

Modest from the outside, inside the church has a solemn interior, on which the famous Renaissance masters worked. The church has mosaics and frescoes by Caravaggio, Pinturicchio and Carlo Maratta.

Two more churches are located in the southern part of the square.

They are the very similar Santa Maria di Montesanto and Santa Maria dei Miracoli, built between 1675 and 1678 under Pope Alexander VII.

At first glance, the two buildings appear identical, but they do differ in certain details of style.

On the north side of the square is the Porta del Popolo gate, immediately behind which is the Piazzale Flaminio.

Through this ancient gate, reconstructed in 1655 by the Italian Lorenzo Bernini, Queen Christina, a representative of the Swedish ruling dynasty, was to enter Rome after her abdication.

Historically, until 1826, Piazza del Popolo was the site of public executions.

Today, the square is forbidden to vehicular traffic of any kind and is left entirely to the locals and numerous tourists.

Approximate time from the plaza at a walking pace

Spanish Steps, 10 minutes;

  • Galleria Borghese, 15 minutes
  • Trevi Fountain, 15 minutes
  • Pantheon, 15 minutes
  • Altar of the Fatherland along Via del Corso, 20 minutes
  • Colosseum, 30 minutes
  • Vatican City, St. Peter’s Basilica, 20 minutes
  • Cats in Rome, 30 minutes
  • Trastevere, 30 minutes