Rome… There’s so much to explore in the capital city of Italy, really, so many amazing things to see and do! Two millenniums of history, art, and a vibrant culture compressed in one incredible city. What I love the most in Rome, is that each square, park, statue, street, and piece of art had long and eventful lives. At this moment, we’ll walk through my 10 favourite piazzas you can visit in Rome, and add your own story to their history!
Sitting in quiet by the Roman Forum, soaking up the vibes of an ancient empire can make you actually visualize between the ruins how life was back then. There are so many historical spots, that it wouldn’t even fit in an article.
1. Piazza San Pietro
The piazza is located right in front of St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. It’s one of those places that I can never, ever skip when I visit Rome. I always feel something so positive and powerful there, that there’s no way I would want to miss to soak up some good vibes!
St Peter’s Square (Piazza San Pietro) is the largest square in Rome. Gian Lorenzo Bernini designed it in the 17th century. The design including the colonnades which embrace the square, and its visitors. In the middle of the piazza is an ancient Egyptian obelisk, and on the two sides are two fountains facing each other, looking very much alike but, one was designed by Bernini and one by Carlo Maderno.
2. Piazza Navona
Well, the Piazza Navona IS MY FAVORITE square in Rome since the first day I’ve seen it in 2015. The vibes, the colors, the music, the restaurants, the architecture, it’s that place you have to love unquestionably and that’s it.
Piazza Navona is also one of the most famous squares in Rome. It was built on the site of the ancient Stadium of Domitian in the 17th century, and this is explaining its form as well.
Highlights: Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi in the middle of the piazza, which is another one of Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s masterpieces. On the two ends of the piazza are the Neptune and the Moor fountains (Fontana di Nettuno and Fontana del Moro). Last, but not least, there’s the beautiful Baroque church, the Sant’Agnese in Agone facing the square.
3. Piazza del Popolo
Piazza del Popolo is one of those squares in Rome that I really, really admire, but I never got the chance to actually enjoy it (If any of you have already been to Rome, please let me know in a comment if you had a different experience!) No matter what time of the day I went there, and I’ve been multiple times, it was always busy, and due to its position, it’s no way you can sit and not see thousands of people around you… and it’s such a beautiful piazza to explore!
The Piazza del Popolo is located on the northern side of the city center, at the northern gate of the historical city of Rome. The Via Flaminia road was considered the most important route to the North, and it was pointing from Piazza del Popolo. When people arrived from the north, this place was the first they’ve seen of the Eternal City.
The piazza has carried another important role for centuries, by being the scene of most of the public executions held in the city.
Rome’s famous long, straight shopping street, Via del Corso links Piazza del Popolo with Piazza Venezia, which is basically in the middle of the historic center.
Highlights: You can find here Rome’s famous twin churches, the Santa Maria in Montesanto and the Santa Maria dei Miracoli.
4. Piazza Venezia
As I mentioned above, Piazza Venezia can be considered as the middle of the historical center. There are 5 main roads going from here, each one leading to each major part of the city. While facing the Altra della Patria, which was built in honor of the first king of Italy, Vittorio Emmanuele the 2nd, you can plan the easiest your walking tour in Rome.
If you choose the road on the left of the Altra della Patria, you’ll end up seeing the Roman Forum, the Colosseum, the ruins of the Fori Imperiali, the Circo Massimo, etc. If you choose the right side, you can see the Capitolium, and that’s the easiest way to Rome’s most colorful neighborhood, the Trastevere too. From the other side of the square (this picture was taken from there) are another 3 roads. The one on the left is leading all the way to the Termini station. The street that’s facing the Altra, the above mentioned Via del Corso is the way to see the Trevi fountain, Spanish Steps, Piazza del Popolo, Villa Borghese, etc. If you go to the right, on Corso Vittorio Emmanuele II, you’ll walk by the Pantheon, the Piazza Navona, and it takes you all the way to the Vatican City.
5. Piazza di Spagna
Have you seen the Roman Holiday movie? If you did, I’m sure you’re already imagining Audrey Hepburn on the Spanish steps… if you haven’t seen it yet, well, please watch it! 🙂
The steps link Piazza di Spagna and the Piazza Trinita dei Monti on top, while the church Trinita dei Monti is looking down to the Spanish steps and the piazza. The monumental stairway has 135 steps, and it was built after the order of a French diplomat in the time of the Bourbon kings of France. This monument became famous right after the Roman Holiday appeared in the cinemas. These days it’s just one of the top 8 things you HAVE TO SEE in Rome.
6. Campo di Fiori
In the South part of the Via del Corso, close to Torre Argentina, you can find the Campo de Fiori, which means ‘field of flowers’. Why is it unique?
Well, it has two faces. The daytime mask: a local market on the square. The evening face: the market disappears, and all you can see is lovely restaurants, outside tables full of people, and music. Music everywhere. Campo di Fiori is a great place for an Aperitif but also for a great dinner before getting into the Roman nights.
You can also find here Giordano Bruno’s statue, who was a renaissance mathematician, philosopher, and poet. He was executed by the Catholic church on Campo de Fiori. He was hanged upside down, naked, with his tongue “imprisoned” and then he was burned… That’s how the Catholic church rewarded the knowledge a few hundred years ago… 🙂
7. Piazza Mattei
The fun fact about Piazza Mattei, is that I always have to put my phone away and get lost, to find it. I know Rome really, really well, but if I have to tell you right now that where is this place exactly, I need a map for it.
Then how can be found? It’s a few minutes away from Campo di Fiori, between that and the Torre Argentina, a hidden little square between the colorful narrow streets. The first time I found it, I was searching for a spicy pepper shop, called Peperita (which is in the left corner on the picture), and I just couldn’t find it. I was going all around with my google maps and always arrived in the wrong place. After a while, I just put my map away and walked. Well, I walked by the shop, and I didn’t realize until I didn’t see the name of the square…
Highlight: the stunning Fontana della Tartarughe. It’s a late renaissance fountain, by Giacomo della Porta, who designed the two small fountains on Piazza Navona, and he has many other masterpieces around Rome.
8. Piazza della Rotonda
We tend to forget the square and concentrate on the iconic building that’s dominating it. The Pantheon is Rome’s oldest church, with a 2000-year-old history. It is one of the best-preserved memory of the Roman Empire.
An emblematic piece, to notice, is the Fontana del Pantheon, in the middle of the square. The piazza is surrounded by cute restaurants and cafes, to choose from for a quick stop-by with an unbelievable view.
9. Piazza della Santa Maria in Trastevere
The square of Santa Maria in Trastevere got its name after the church that’s standing here. The Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere is one of the oldest churches in Rome.
The Romanesque campanile is from the 12th century, but its floor plan is dating back to 340s. The past few years it was wrapped due to constructions, and it was such a disappointment every time I’ve gone there to see it all covered.
The good news, however, restorations were finished (2019) and it’s all visible and so breathtaking! If you’re visiting Rome, now you can see the Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere in its glowing bloom.
10. Piazza del Campidoglio
Right near the Altra della Patria you can find the Capitolium hill. There are large steps leading up to the Capitolium square, which along with the surrounding buildings were designed by the renaissance artists, Michelangelo Buonarotti.
In the middle of the square is the statue of the emperor Marcus Aurelius. There are three buildings surrounding the piazza, the Palazzo Senatorio, which is used by the City Council, then and the Mayor’s Office is also here, and the Palazzo Caffarelli.
I’m being honest now… I’m going this May 2020 the 10th time to Rome, and I still have 4 pages full of places I’ve never seen in the city. The Italian capital was and is my obsession since 2015, and my desire to know more about this place is unstoppable! Rome is the reason I started blogging, and it’s the reason why I decided 5 years ago, that I will make my way to Italy once, to finally live there.