In the northern part of Rome we find a square that for centuries has been considered the gateway to the city.
And it is that until Piazza del Popolo reached one of the most important Roman roads, the Via Flaminia that linked the capital of the Empire with the north of Italy and the rest of Europe.
From this busy square, place of demonstrations, 3 important streets start forming a trident and today it is one of the most important squares to see in Rome.
A visit to Piazza del Popolo
Piazza del Popolo is currently a large open space that is perfectly aligned with Piazza de Venezia, thanks to the Via del Corso that joins both squares.
In the center of the square we can find a great Egyptian obelisk 24 meters high and dedicated to Ramses II.
This large obelisk was brought from Egypt and was previously in the Circo Massimo until it was moved here in 1589.
At the south end of the square we find two practically identical churches that form a great symmetrical effect in the Piazza del Popolo.
These are the churches of Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria in Montesanto, only separated by the Via del Corso, dating from the end of the 18th century
If you look closely you can see some differences. If you have been there and have found them, do not hesitate to comment below and tell us about them.
But without a doubt, the great jewel that we can find in the PIazza del Popolo is the Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo.
The Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo
This splendid basilica houses two great works by Caravaggio, which are its main attraction, although the entire church is almost a museum due to the number of works of art it houses.
Therefore, we totally recommend your visit. The two famous paintings, called The Crucifixion of Saint Peter and The Conversion of Saint Paul, are in the same chapel, in the Cerasi Chapel.
Also not to be missed are the Choir, the Chigi Chapel (designed by Raphael) and the rest of the Renaissance works in this basilica that appears in Dan Brown’s famous novel, Angels and Demons.
And do you know the origin of this basilica? Well, it has a very curious origin.
And it is that in this same place there was a walnut tree that the Romans believed was haunted by the ghost of Nero, buried there, and that is why it was always full of ravens. To drive away this evil spirit, in the year 1099, Pope Pascual II decided to cut down the tree and build a Romanesque chapel in its place, which was later enlarged to become the basilica that we can admire today.
What to see near Piazza del Popolo
Don’t miss the Pincio Hill. This place is undoubtedly one of the best known viewpoints in Rome.
Going up there from Piazza del Popolo is already a great experience due to the number of statues, fountains and porticoes that you find and once up there you will have the best views of the square and much of Rome.
On the Pincio Hill is also the Galleria Borghese, one of the main museums of the city.
Also of note is the Ara Pacis.
It is an altar built in the year 9 BC to celebrate the so-called Pax Augusta, which is nothing more than the pacification by Augustus of all the Mediterranean territories, the time of greatest happiness of the Roman Empire.
The altar was buried for centuries by the flooding of the Tiber River and was not recovered until 1938 when it was decided to rebuild it.