Among the most famous squares in Rome is Piazza del Popolo, what makes this place so special? From the moment you arrive at the entrance to the square you can see some of the monuments, churches and places to visit. Like many areas of Italy, it is full of history and interesting facts.
Besides the most visited buildings, such as the twin churches and the Basilica Santa Maria del Popolo, there are others that will surely please you. The square I'm talking about today offers beautiful gardens, museums and much more. Read on and discover everything you have the opportunity to do and see in the famous square.
Meet a Basilica with an interesting history behind it
Rome is home to many religious sites, so if you want to visit one of the best churches in Rome, you might have a hard time choosing. My recommendation is the Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo. It is located near one of the ancient gates of the city and is one of the most visited places.
I find it interesting that, although it is a minor basilica, it is so well known by the citizens and tourists of Rome. The reason is that it is arguably different from the rest, it is said that on the ground where it stands was the tomb of Nero. For a long time, the ancient inhabitants of the city were afraid of it.
Some facts about this religious centre
- Among the main artists who decorated its interior are: Bernini, Caravaggio, Pinturicchio and Raphael.
- The ceilings are not as high as usual in basilicas and are not very decorated.
- The wooden benches bear the names of the people to whom they were dedicated.
- The decorations in the chapels are literally works of art.
- It can be said that this basilica is a small museum with the following works: Crucifixion of St. Peter, funerary monuments of cardinals, image of Maria del Popolo, Conversion of St. Paul and more.
Information about the Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo
Location: adjacent to the Porta Flaminia.
Opening hours: 7.30am to 12.30pm and 4pm to 7pm. It is not possible to visit during mass.
Admission fee: free of charge.
Find out the differences between the twin churches
The twin churches are Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria in Montesanto, they were built simultaneously by the same people. When you visit the Piazza del Popolo you have the opportunity to enter them and see their baroque design common in Rome in the years they were built.
One of the things that catches the attention of visitors is that these churches appear to be identical. However, as you look at them (both inside and out) you will find their differences. For example, the dome of the church on the left is oval in shape and that of Santa Maria dei Miracoli is circular.
Unlike Santa Maria del Popolo, there are not many works of art in the twin churches. However, as is common in Italy, the interior of both is very attractive with details made in the 18th century that are still intact today.
Additional facts about the twin churches
- Location: Via del Corso.
- Opening hours: 7.00 am to 12.30 pm and 4.00 pm to 7.30 pm (may change due to religious events).
- Price: free admission.
Visit an Egyptian monument in Rome
The monument is known as the "Obelisk of Piazza del Popolo" or "Obelisco Flaminio". It is located in the square and anyone can see it from different points, it is also valid to get close to it. Up close you can see the four circular pools and the lion statues that were placed to adapt the surroundings to the Egyptian style.
The 23.30 metre high obelisk was built in the 13th century BC and was located in Heliopolis, a city in ancient Egypt. In the 10th century BC Augustus ordered it to be brought to the city of Heliopolis, a city in ancient Egypt. C Augustus ordered it to be brought to Rome, and placed in the Circus Maximus. Eventually it disappeared and remained there for a long time.
It was rediscovered in 1587 and the excavation was directed by Pope Sixtus V, when it was moved it was placed in the Piazza del Popolo. It is made of red granite and its shape represents the ray of the divine sun, Ra. It is undoubtedly one of Rome's finest monuments.
Additional facts about the Obelisk
- Location: in front of the Basilica Santa Maria del Popolo.
- Opening hours: it is a public place, so there is access to it at all hours.
- Price: because it is located in Piazza del Popolo, access is free of charge.
Admire Piazza del Popolo and Rome from above
A popular place to visit for both locals and tourists is the Pincio hill. Although it is not one of the main hills of the city, it is one of the most famous, as it offers a wonderful panoramic view of the area. On Pincio are the following places:
- The panoramic terrace: in this area you get an excellent view of Piazza del Popolo, the dome of St. Peter's Basilica and more.
- Gardens: Giuseppe Valadier was in charge of creating the gardens on the hill, where you can find statues, busts and a famous hourglass.
If you want to know from where else you can get the best views of Rome, check out the article where I give you the answer.
Additional facts about Pincio Hill
- Location: it is connected to Piazza del Popolo by a staircase, to reach it you have to go to Via del Corso.
- Opening hours: open 24 hours a day.
- Price: free access.
Don't miss the gate in the wall
Although the Porta del Popolo is the main way into the city, it is easy for some visitors to pass through without taking a closer look. I recommend that you take a moment to look at it. On either side of the door are statues of St Paul and St John.
The most remarkable thing about the door is that it was made by Nanni di Baccio, Michelangelo's apprentice architect, in the 16th century. A century later, the Porta del Popolo was decorated because Christina of Sweden was visiting Rome. On the outside of the door there are elements such as ornaments, columns, statues and inscriptions.
Additional facts about the Porta del Popolo
- Location: in Piazza del Popolo.
- Opening hours: it is a public place, so it is accessible 24 hours a day.
- Price: free of charge.
Get to know the creations of one of the greatest geniuses of all time
Very close to the Piazza del Popolo is the Leonardo da Vinci Museum, ideal for visitors of all ages. It features creations by the anatomist, artist, architect, scientist, engineer and inventor. Use the interactive machines made by various Italian craftsmen based on da Vinci's manuscripts.
In addition to the machines, the Museum features Renaissance works, an interactive room, the famous sketches of human anatomy and videos. Every object you see in the Leonardo da Vinci Museum will help transport you into the mind and life of this famous Italian who dedicated himself to different fields.
The Museum is one of the best things to do in Rome with kids. So, if you are travelling with your kids, they are sure to have fun with the interactive objects.
Additional facts about Leonardo da Vinci Museum
- Location: basement of the Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo.
- Hours: from 10 am to 7 pm.
- Price: the entrance fee is approximately €10. If you want the audio-guide, you need to pay about €3. More information on the website of the Leonardo da Vinci Museum.
Visit the property that belonged to the Borghese family
Opposite Piazza del Popolo is the entrance to the Villa Borghese gardens. One of the most famous museums in Rome (and Italy) is the Galleria Borghese, which houses all the works of art that belonged to the Borghese family. The place is full of marvellous elements, most notably works by Caravaggio, Bernini, Raphael or Titian.
The Borghese family had in their possession for many years these paintings and sculptures, it was Cardinal Scipione Borghese who started collecting them. When they were affected by the currency devaluation and the agricultural crisis, the Borghese sold their property and works of art to the State.
Additional facts about the Borghese Gallery
- Location: Piazzale Scipione Borghese, about 2.6 km from Piazza del Popolo.
- Opening hours: from 9 am to 10 pm.
- Price: from €15. More information on the Galleria Borghese website.
A museum made especially for an ancient altar
The Museo Dell'Ara Pacis is an establishment that houses one of the most significant Roman monuments: the Ara Pacis Augustae. There is also a space dedicated to temporary exhibitions, archaeological themes and a digital library.
The Ara Pacis Augustae or Altar of the Peace of Augustus was built in 9 BC and celebrated the pacification achieved during the reign of Augustus. Priests, magistrates of Rome and vestal virgins offered sacrifices on it. Over time, the Tiber left the great monument submerged for more than 1000 years.
In the 19th century most of its pieces were found and in the 1930s reconstruction began.
Additional information about the Museo Dell'Ara Pacis
- Location: Lungotevere in Augusta (less than 2 km from Piazza del Popolo).
- Opening hours: from 9.30 am to 7.30 pm.
- Price: about 10€. More information on the website of the Museo Dell'Ara Pacis.
Visit the tomb of one of Rome's most remembered emperors
Although some years ago it was only possible to visit the ruins of the Mausoleum of Augustus, it has recently been remodelled and opened to visitors. The circular tomb has a diameter of 90 metres and a height of less than 45 metres and is the place that Augustus built to be his tomb and that of his family.
He achieved many things as emperor and benefited the city greatly, so an altar was built in his honour. When he was still a young man, he started to build the place where his remains would be placed. Over time, it fell into disrepair and was forgotten, although the altar was rebuilt, the tomb was in ruins.
The Mausoleum of Augustus began to be rebuilt, structurally reinforced and prepared to receive people. It began welcoming citizens and tourists in 2021, visits last approximately 50 minutes.
Additional facts about the Mausoleum of Augustus
- Location: next to the Museum Dell'Ara Pacis.
- Opening hours: from 9.00 am to 7.00 pm.
- Price: from €4. More information at the website of Il Mausoleo di Augusto
Visit the memorial plaque commemorating two men executed near Piazza del Popolo
A plaque was installed in Piazza del Popolo in 1909 commemorating the death of Angelo Targhini and Leonida Montanari. Above it are the images of the two men. The so-called "Lapide Angelo Targhini e Leonida Montanari" is one of the details of the Piazza that not all tourists know.
Targhini and Montanari were two Carabinieri, a society whose followers wanted constitutional government and political freedom. Both were executed in 1825 by order of Pope Leo XII. Years after their deaths, many began to consider them heroes of the Risorgimento.
Additional information about the Targhini and Montanari commemorative plaque
- Location: on the left side of the Porta del Popolo.
- Opening hours: 24 hours a day.
- Price: public access.
Where exactly is Piazza del Popolo located?
Piazza del Popolo is located *at the foot of the Pincio, where the ancient Porta Flaminia used to be. This is one of the most famous squares in Rome and is located in the northern part of the Italian capital.
The Porta Flaminia, today Porta del Popolo, was a wall that was intended to keep the city safe from barbarian invasions. The tomb of the Roman Emperor Nero used to be located in the Piazza, so it has been a well-known landmark since Ancient Rome.
How to get to Piazza del Popolo from Rome?
Rome is not very far from Piazza del Popolo, the distance between the two points is just over 3.5 kilometres. You can get there by taxi from the centre of Rome for about 10 euros or by Rome Metro from Termini to Flaminio.
Once you get to Piazza del Popolo you can walk to any of the places I have told you about. My recommendation is to spend half a day or a day visiting the Piazza and several of its areas of interest. If this is not possible, select what you like the most and what suits your travel conditions, and visit it.
Whatever you choose, I wish you a happy trip. Finally, I leave you a guide in which I talk about the keys to organise your trip to Rome.