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Rome's Best  Piazzas, Fountains and Monuments





 Rome's Best Piazzas - Piazza del Popolo

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Piazza del Popolo

           The oblelisk at the center of the Piazza del Popolo is over three-thousand years old

The Piazza del Popolo is located adjacent to the northern gate of the Aurelian Wall, a protective bastion that once guarded ancient Rome.  The Piazza holds a number of unique treasures and is a popular destination with travelers.

The Pincian Hill to the east of the Piazza was once the burial place of Nero and residents of the area had long felt that the tyrannical emperor was still haunting the neighborhood centuries after his demise.  At the end of the 11th century, Pope Pasquale (Pashcal) II disinterred Nero's grave and had the remains dumped into the Tiber for disposal.  In turn, he commissioned a chapel for the Piazza (presumably to banish the ghost of Nero), which was later enlarged and modified into the church now known as Santa Maria del Popolo.

The centerpiece of Piazza del Popolo is the Obelisk of Rameses II (Obelisco Flaminio - 13th century BC), which was brought to Rome by Augustus Caesar after the conquest of Egypt and was originally located at the Circus Maximus.  It was moved to the Piazza  in the 16th century by  then Pope Sixtus V and crowned with his star insignia. 

Interior of the  church Santa Maria del PopoloThe Piazza is located at one of the northern gates of the city and  was once the main entrance to Rome from the Roman Road Via Flaminia.  The gate was redesigned and renovated  by Bernini in the 17th century in anticipation of an important state visit.

The landmark church Santa Marie del Popolo to the right of the entrance gate  gave its name to the Piazza and contains a magnificent collection of artistic decorations including statues by Bernini, designs by Raphael, Bregno, and paintings by Caravaggio, Pinaturicchio and others.  The church also hosts the Chigi Chapel, designed by Raphael and finished by Bernini, which plays a role in the popular fictional work Angels & Demons.

Two other Baroque churches make the southern edge of the Piazza their home.  The adjacent Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria di Montesanto were constructed sequentially during the last half of the 17th century.   Similar in size (one is slightly larger) and design, the two churches  face the Aurelian Wall across the piazza 

To the east of the Piazza del Popolo is the Pincian Hill, an area of ancient Rome thatView of the Piazza Napoleone atop the Pincian Hill viewed from the Piazza del Popolo was a favored residential area of the well-to-do and powerful.  The Pincian has interesting gardens and is on the way to the popular Galleria Borghese Park and Museum.

There are a number of trendy cafes (e.g. Rosati's and Canova) on or near the Piazza del Popolo, so take some time for a gelato or a snack to refuel before making the hike to the Galleria Borghese.


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