Our Favorite Piazzas in Rome
Here are our favorite piazzas (or squares) in Rome, which have been the center of Roman life for centuries and still are. These piazzas are surrounded by cafes and shops and filled with fountains, street performers, demonstrators, tourists, lovers, locals, you name it..... Also see our recommendations for the top sights in Rome and information about the Vatican.
Piazza Venezia- This piazza is the large square in front of the Victor Emmanuel Monument and is the main piazza in modern Rome. The Via del Corso, a main axis of Rome, is the main street that leads away from here. With your back to the huge monument look to the left at the Palazzo Venezia’s balcony above the square. This is where Mussolini gave his speeches. Just to be here and watch the traffic flow is a sight in itself.
Piazza Colonna- The focus of this piazza is an 83 foot tall column erected to honor Marcus Aurelius. There was once a statue of the emperor on top of the column, but it was replaced (by the pope) with a statue of St. Paul in the 16th century. Palazo Chigi, the residence of Italy’s Prime Minister is on the piazza so don’t be surprised if you see heavily armed security nearby.
Campo de’ Fiori- This piazza is filled with cafes, restaurants and bars and is popular with locals as a lunch spot. The area is even more popular in the evening because of the international style pubs. There is a fruit and vegetable market in the morning that is considered one of the best in Rome. In the center of the piazza is a statue of Giordano Bruno. He was a philosopher who, because he felt that the earth revolved around the sun, was burned at the stake where the statue now stands. All public executions took place here during the Middle Ages.
Piazza Navona- This is one of the most beautiful piazza in all of Rome. It is built on the site of the ancient Stadium of Diocletion where chariot races took place; notice the oblong shape.
As you enter the piazza from the north side, you can view the original stadium entrance below the current street level. You can also pay to go down and see the entrance, but the free view from the street is good enough for most people.
The highlight of the piazza, besides the cafes, is the Fountain of Four Rivers. One of several fountains in the piazza, this Baroque fountain was built by Bernini in 1650. The four figures represent the four great rivers from the four continents (known at that time) of the world, The Nile (Africa), the Danube (Europe), the Rio de la Plata in Uruguay (the Americas) and the Ganges (Asia). Notice that the head of the figure representing the Nile is covered, because the source of this river was not yet known.
Piazza di Spagna and Scalinata di Spagna (The Spanish Steps)- This piazza is Rome's meeting place. The steps are lined with flowers that can go unnoticed due to the crush of tourists. Its name comes from the 16th century when the Spanish Ambassador lived here. English poet John Keats lived and died in the house to the right of the steps, which is now a memorial.
The steps were funded by the French and lead to their church, Trinita del Monte at the top. The boat shaped fountain in the piazza was made by Pietro Bernini. This is a great place for people watching and for young people to meet others from around the world.
Piazza del Popolo- This piazza is “the piazza of the people” and is famous as a meeting place for large rallies. It is located at the end of one of Rome’s main pedestrian streets. In the center is an Egyptian obelisk which is one of Rome’s oldest objects dating back to 1200 B.C.. This obelisk once stood in the center of Circus Maximus (moved here by none other than a pope).
Rome deserves a minimum stay of 3 nights. But we realize that many people visit Rome as a day trip from cruise ships, so we offer Private Tours from Civitavecchia to make the best of limited time.
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