About Piazza Del Popolo
Piazza del Popolo is an oval-shaped square, which has been a great crowd puller for ages! It has been named after the famed church in one of its corners- the Santa Maria del Popolo church. It stands as a testament to the cultural beauty of Rome and displays Egyptian obelisks, churches, stained glass windows, and even a couple of Caravaggio paintings! At the center of the beautiful square is the Egyptian obelisk from Heliopolis, Egypt.
And surrounding it and further enhancing the glory of the structure are Egyptian lions, sphinxes, and intricately carved fountains. To the north of the plaza is a massive gateway called the Porta del Popolo, which serves as the entrance to the square. The other three sides of the plaza have roads leading into them, and the churches of Santa Maria del Miracoli and Santa Maria in Montesanto can be found on each of its junctions.
And looking down on the picturesque plaza from the east is the Pincio, the Pincian hill of Rome with its beautiful landscape and greenery. The plaza is a vehicle-free zone, and as a result of that, tourists can go about the place in a leisurely way, and locals can use it as a hassle-free zone for spending a day off.
How to Reach Piazza Del Popolo
The nearest airport from Piazza del Popolo is Leonardo da Vinci International Airport. The quickest highway for reaching the earliest at the square would be the A91. Here are a few other ways to commute from the airport to Piazza del Popolo.
BY CAR: You could take a cab from the airport, and the whole journey will take 25 to 30 minutes. This is the fastest option, and it will cost around 50-60 euros.
BY BUS: A cheaper option would be the bus to Rome Vatican, which leaves the Rome Airport Bus Station every 20 minutes. SitBus Shuttle operates it, and it takes 45 minutes to drop you at Piazza del Popolo.
BY TRAIN: There is also a direct train from the airport to Piazza del Popolo operated by Leonardo Express, which costs 14 euros and takes 32 minutes to cover the distance. These trains depart in every 20-minute intervals.
Best Time to Visit Piazza Del Popolo
The best time to visit Piazza del Popolo would be in autumn from mid September to November. This is the time when the crowds are less, and you would not feel claustrophobic in the square. The days are sunny and the chances of rain ruining the day are few. The evenings are pleasant with a cool breeze blowing.
Summer is the peak season to visit Piazza del Popolo as the weather remains warm and it also gives you respite from the chilly weather that prevails in other months over here. You should book your tickets beforehand if you’re planning to visit this square during summer months. (March-June)
Monsoon: It would not be very wise to visit the square in mid June and July during monsoon as rain might ruin your trip.
What Not to Miss at Piazza Del Popolo
Here are some of the most notable attractions near Piazza del Popolo.
1. Ara Pacis- It is located within 500 meters of Piazza del Popolo and is a beautiful monument constructed between 13 BC and 9 BC. It was built to commemorate a few years of tranquility in the Mediterranean region following a few bloody wars. It is made of pure Carrara marble and a shrine of the Roman goddess of peace. It was scientifically created so that the shadow of the tall obelisk in Campus Martius would fall on it every year on Augustus’ birthday. It was submerged due to floods but has been reconstructed lately.
2. Villa Borghese- It is a vibrant and lovely park in Piazza del Popolo that remains open for public visits. It earlier belonged to the noble Borghese family but was acquired by the State of Rome in 1901. It is not only famed for its natural beauty but also has adequate cultural structures that will give you a glimpse of the rich history of Rome. It houses the Rome zoo, and a museum called the Borghese gallery.
3. Keats Shelley House- It is a commemorative museum dedicated to the poets John Keats and P B Shelley and is synonymous with the Romantic age. In fact, Keats himself was a resident in the house, and he even died here. The place houses numerous sculptures and original manuscripts of John Keats, which are hugely appealing to literature fans. John Keats, who owns it, has also housed a library of Romantic literature here!
Other Essential Information About Piazza Del Popolo
Location: Piazza del Popolo, 00187 Roma RM, Italy.
Distance from the nearest airport: The nearest airport is the Leonardo da Vinci International Airport( FCO), which is 29.9 km away from the plaza via the A91 highway. The fastest way to commute between them is by taxi, which takes 26 minutes and charges around 50-60 euros.
Entry fee: Entrance to the plaza is free.
Monday to Friday: 7 am to 12 noon and 4 pm to 7 pm.
Saturday: 7:30 am to 9 pm
Sunday: 7:30 am to 1:30 pm and 4:30 pm to 7:30 pm
History of Piazza del Popolo
This magnificent plaza has quite a macabre history! In 68 AD, when the Roman emperor Nero died, he was buried here under a walnut tree. And from there on, the plaza was believed to be cursed. In 1100 AD, the Romans declared it to be exorcised and insisted on digging up Nero’s remains and burning it! Nero’s corpse was therefore exhumed and his ashes were scattered in Tibet River. Pope Paschal 11 however restored the peace in this square by building Santa Maria del Popolo church close to the square. Piazza del Popolo was the most important center of public executions till 1826.
It has been modified numerous times during the course of history. The plaza did not house the Egyptian obelisk in the days of yore. It was kept in Circus Maximus as a token of the Roman conquest of Egypt, but in 1589, it was finally moved here. And the church of Santa Maria del Popolo, which houses the Caravaggios, is still believed to be haunted by the locals! The layout of this square was designed by Giuseppe Valadier who is a famous architect. He connected this square with the towering height of Pincio Hill and transformed it into an oval shape by building walls around the square. It is surrounded by three churches- Santa Maria’s twin churches and Santa Maria del Popolo church. The Egyptian government is planning to turn it into an open-air tennis court.
The Architecture of Piazza del Popolo
The square originally had a very different look from the one it has currently! The current architecture was envisaged by the Roman architect Giuseppe Valadier who tore down the other structures in the plaza and built this magnificent place that thousands flock to daily! He built the plaza painstakingly over a period of 11 years from 1811 to 1822 and gave it a neoclassical feel.
He gave the plaza the new oval structure and boundaries in place of the trapezoidal structure it had before. He tried to incorporate in it the elements that famous artist Bernini had planned for St. Peter’s square. World-renowned architect Valadier added the fountains and Egyptian lions to enhance the look of the obelisk in 1818. However, contradictory to its otherwise neoclassical look, it has a couple of churches, Santa Maria del Miracoli and Santa Maria in Montesanto. They are placed at the road junctions and bear distinct differences in their primary features. The Porta del Popolo was designed by Bernini in 1655 to welcome the Queen of Sweden following her conversion to Roman Catholicism.
Churches in Piazza del Popolo
The beautiful plaza encloses three churches on its northern and southern perimeters. The primary church Santa Maria del Popolo, on which the oval square has been named lies to the northeast of Piazza del Popolo. The other two churches Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria in Montesanto, are situated at the southern portion of the plaza and at the intersections of the three roads leading into the city from the plaza. Contradictory to the overall neoclassical architecture of the plaza, these two churches are not identical. They have different features, even though they are symmetrical. This is because Santa Maria in Montesanto fell prey to area shortage. So in comparison to the circular dome of its sister church, it got an oval dome.
The Santa Maria del Popolo is the jewel in the crown of the plaza. Located beside the massive Porta del Popolo, it houses innumerable structures of historical importance. It has massive stained glass windows and two Caravaggios. It has two chapels with elaborate frescoes- Della Rovere and, more importantly, the Chigi Chapel, which was sculpted by the famed Raphael!
Fountains in Piazza del Popolo
Just like the churches on the northern and southern ends, the plaza has fountains on the western and eastern peripheries. Both were designed by the man who envisaged the whole look of the plaza- Valadier. Located on the western side is Roman god Neptune and Tritons- also known as Fontana de Nettuno or the Neptune Fountain.
To the east of the plaza, you will find the Fontana della dea di Roma ( Fountain of the goddess of Rome). Below the statue of the goddess, you can find a beautifully carved wolf, suckling the famous brothers Romulus and Remus, who were the founder of Rome.
The Egyptian obelisk, flanked by her guardian lions, is the centerpiece of the Piazza del Popolo. It is a massive structure, close to 73 feet tall. The history of this magnificent sculpture goes way back to 1300 BC. It was kept in Heliopolis until 10BC, and the Roman emperor Augustus brought it over to Circus Maximus, Rome, as a token of the magnificent conquering of Egypt. From there, it was moved to its current location as late as 1589.
Tips for Visiting Piazza del Popolo
Here are some of the most important tips that you must follow before visiting Piazza del Popolo.
1. Wear modest clothes before entering the square as it is a site of cultural significance.
2. Do not litter garbage here and there. Remember to put napkins and food packages only in the dustbin.
3. Don’t shout or talk loudly inside the square as it is a site that offers tranquillity to the visitors.
4. It is a no vehicle zone, and you do not need to be on the lookout for cars. You can simply walk around and gasp in the culture of arguably the world’s finest city and bask in its cultural abundance!
5. Carry your important medicines so that you can have optimum control of your health during the trip.
6. Have optimum time to gasp into the magnificence of this place as it is a site that can’t be explored when you’re in a hurry.