Squares in Italy are centre of life: Italians go in piazza for meeting each other, for special events or for the daily “happy hour”. Many of Rome’s squares have fountains with endless springing water. Here the 8 most famous and beautiful squares in Rome.
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1 – Piazza Navona. It is built on the site of the Stadium of Domitian and follows the oblong form of the open space of the stadium. The large square features three magnificent fountains: the one in the center is the famous Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers) by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, topped by the Obelisk of Domitian that comes from Egypt; at the southern end is the Fontana del Moro with four Tritons and a statue of a Moor wrestling with a dolphin; at the northern end is the Fountain of Neptune. Another eyecatcher is the Baroque church of Sant’Agnese in Agone. The modern piazza is a lively place, closed to traffic, where both locals and tourists like to hang out. Artists gather in the sqaure to paint and there are many entertainers and vendors selling souvenirs.
2 – Piazza di Spagna. At the bottom of the Spanish Steps (Scalinata di Trinità dei Monti), is one of the most famous squares of Rome. It owes its name to the Palazzo di Spagna, seat of the Embassy of Spain among the Holy See. The Spanish Steps are the widest staircase in Europe, and link the church of Trinità dei Monti, on top, with the shopping street, Via dei Condotti, below. In the middle of the square is the Fontana della Barcaccia (little boat), dating to the beginning of the baroque age, sculpted by the Berninis, father and son. At the right corner of the Spanish Steps there is the house of the poet John Keats, who lived there until his death, and nowadays is a museum dedicated to him and to Shelley (the Keats-Shelley Memorial House).
3 – Piazza San Pietro (Saint Peter’s Square). A huge, impressive square in front of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City. It was designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini “so that the greatest number of people could see the Pope give his blessing, either from the middle of the façade of the church or from a window in the Vatican Palace“. The massive Tuscan colonnades, four columns deep, is designed like two arms that embrace visitors. At the centre of the square is an Egyptian obelisk, and there are two fountains, one of which constructed by Bernini. Photos.
4 – Fontana di Trevi. The Fountain fills almost entirely the Piazza di Trevi, at the junction of three roads (tre vie), from which it takes the name. It marks the terminal point of the Aqua Virgo, one of the aqueducts that supplied water to ancient Rome. Standing 26.3 meters (86 ft) high and 49.15 meters (161.3 ft) wide it is the largest and most spectacular of Rome’s fountains, designed to glorify the three different Popes who created it. The central figure is Oceanus, the personification of all the seas and oceans, in an oyster-shell chariot, surrounded by Tritons and Sea Nymphs. If you want to return to Rome, you must throw a coin in this (and only this!) fountain, turning your back to it: coins are meant to be thrown using the right hand over the left shoulder (or left hand over right shoulder). From June 30 the Fountain is under restoration, but a walkway above the central portion of the fountain, enables tourists to get a better glimpse of ongoing work and of the Baroque masterpiece. Water has been drained for the renovation process, which is expected to last one year and a half. A small white fountain was also installed, so visitors will still be able to cast their coins for luck.
5 – Campo de’ Fiori. Litterally meaning Field of Flowers, is a rectangular square south of Piazza Navona. The name was first given during the Middle Ages when the area was actually a meadow. For centuries was the stage for public executions. A statue in the middle of the square it’s a reminder of the death of the Dominican Friar, philosopher and mathematician Giordano Bruno, that here was burnt alive for heresy. Today is a celebrated and picturesque market by day, heaving with people bustling among fruit and vegetable stands, and quickly turns into a hub for nightlifers in the evening, with restaurants and bars open for business.
6 – Piazza del Popolo. A large oval square, situated near Villa Borghese Park, its name literally means “People’s Square“, but historically it derives from the poplars (populus in Latin, pioppi in Italian) after which the church of Santa Maria del Popolo, in the northeast corner of the piazza, takes its name. Other two symmetrical churches overlook the Piazza, at the southern end of the square, on either side of the Via del Corso: Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria in Montesanto. An Egyptian obelisk from Heliopolis stands in the centre of the Piazza and on the north side the square is dominated by the Porta del Popolo, a large gate decorated by Bernini, which leads to the Via Flaminia. At the center of the piazza is the Fontana dell’ Obelisco: a group of four mini fountains, each comprising a lion on a stepped plinth, surround the obelisk. Two other fountains, one at each end of the oval, complete the square: the Fontana del Nettuno (Neptune Fountain), that shows Neptune accompanied by Tritons, and the Fontana della dea di Roma (Fountain of the goddess of Rome), where the goddess Rome is flanked by allegorical figures representing the rivers Tiber and Aniene. Today is a pedestrian zone and is frequently host to music concerts and open air exhibitions, due to its great dimensions. On New Years Eve a firework display can always be viewed from here, if you don’t mind staying amongst the crowds!
7 – Piazza del Campidoglio. Located on top of the Capitoline Hill, where Roman Divinities were once praised, nowadays it is headquarter of the Italian Government. The plan of the trapezoidal square was conceived by Michelangelo Buonarroti. It is bordered by three palazzos, all with facades designed by Michelangelo: the central one is the Palazzo Senatorio, the city hall of Rome, the other two, the Palazzo dei Conservatori and Palazzo Nuovo, are home to the Capitoline Museums. The Piazza is also the settlement of the famous statue of the She-wolf with the twins (Romulus and Remus) and of an equestrian statue of Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Is interesting the view from the Piazza on the remains of the Roman Forum, that gives a great idea of the immensity of what was once the Roman Empire.
8 – Piazza Venezia. A highly traffic congested square at the center of Rome, where many thoroughfares intersect, like Via dei Fori Imperiali and Via del Corso. It takes its name from Venice, after the Venetian Cardinal, who had built Palazzo Venezia, the former embassy of the city of the Republic of Venice to Rome, that currently hosts the National Museum. The one landmark dominating Piazza Venezia is the Altare della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland), also known as Il Vittoriano, an immense white marble monument dedicated to King Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of Italy. This monument has been criticized for clashing with the existing architecture, but it is still worth a visit, also for the magnificent view you have from the top.
Photos source: wikipedia