If you plan on traveling to Rome soon, you are bound to come across a handful of the city’s world-famous piazzas. So just what is a “piazza?” “Piazza” is the Italian term for a public square or marketplace. From intimate gathering spaces and crowded nightlife hubs, to monumental landmarks and bustling intersections, piazzas are a culturally significant meeting point for friends, family, and strangers alike. Whether you choose to visit a piazza for a quick photo or rather opt to sit amongst the locals for hours as the sun goes down, you’ll come to love these traditional Italian hang-out spots.
Usually complete with fountains or a central obelisk, beautiful architecture, and plenty of thriving shops and restaurants nearby, piazzas are a great place to explore local culture and history. Thankfully, Rome has plenty of piazzas both big and small just waiting to be discovered during your next holiday. Though we can’t possibly cover all of Rome’s piazzas in one post, we can tell you about some of our all-time favorites! Read on to discover our picks for the top 8 must-see piazzas in Rome so that you can add them to your upcoming travel itinerary!
1) Piazza Navona, Hub of Baroque Art & Culture
If you want to get a feel for Rome’s piazzas, head to Piazza Navona for romantic views and a dose of history
Piazza Navona is undeniably one of the most beloved piazzas in Rome. Besides offering a unique charm and a family friendly atmosphere, Piazza Navona has a mesmerizing history that dates back thousands of years. Originally, the space below the piazza was the location of the Ancient Roman Stadium of Domitian. Here, they would hold athletic competitions and for a brief period of time, gladiator fights! It wasn’t until the Baroque era when the piazza was decked out with two marvelous artistic creations- Bernini’s “Fountain of the Four Rivers,” and Borromini’s Church of St. Agnese in Agone.
Today, Piazza Navona is a popular tourist attraction for travelers where you can find adorable restaurants, gelaterias, and vintage shopping nearby. If you happen to travel to Italy around the holidays, note that this piazza transforms into a festive Christmas market during December complete with food stands, souvenir vendors, carnival games, and even a carousel! To learn more about the fascinating history behind Piazza Navona, consider joining a Guided Rome Sunset Stroll or an Early Bird Walking Tour where a local guide will tell you all of the insider facts about the city center!
2) St Peter’s Square, a Must-See in Vatican City
This enormous square in front of St. Peter’s Basilica is impressive from all angles
A visit to Vatican City would not be complete without standing in awe of the beauty in St. Peter’s Square, also known as Piazza San Pietro. This massive square framing St. Peter’s Basilica is the location where the pope holds Wednesday General Audiences and special masses on religious holidays. On Sundays at noon, you may also have the chance to see the pope give a blessing and recite the Angelus from a nearby apartment window.
Besides being an extremely sacred place for the Catholic Church, the square itself features a breathtaking architectural design. During the late 17th century, Gian Lorenzo Bernini erected a series of huge Doric colonnades extending out like arms from the basilica. If you stand in the right spot, the rows that consist of four columns, appear to converge as one. This optical illusion shows the incredible architectural precision of the time! In the center of St. Peter’s Square, you’ll also come across a towering Egyptian obelisk that was once the focal point of the Circus of Nero in Ancient Rome (it is rumored that the ashes of Julius Caesar are stored in a metal ball at the top, though the truth of this is unknown.) As if this wasn’t impressive enough, two beautiful marble fountains were also added to decorate each side of the piazza.
On the right hand side of the square, you’ll find the main entrance to St. Peter’s Basilica which contains stunning works of art and sacred relics. To make the most of your trip to Vatican City, we recommend you join a tour of the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica to learn the grand history behind this marvelous city from an expert guide.
3) & 4) Trastevere’s Piazza di Santa Maria & Piazza Trilussa, Popular Spots Amongst Locals
Located in one of Rome’s most picturesque neighborhoods, these piazzas are favorites among Italians and tourists alike!
Within one of the most trendy neighborhoods in Rome, you’ll find plenty of piazzas to pass the time in. Snuggled within the historic district of Trastevere, Piazza di Santa Maria is as picturesque as it gets. Here, you can take in views of one of the oldest basilicas in Rome, shop or grab a snack in the surrounding storefronts, and even sit on the steps of the central fountain that doubles as a popular place to chat amongst locals. This piazza is also the perfect starting point for a fun night out on the town in one of the hearts of Rome’s nightlife scene!
Another lively square located in front of the scenic Ponte Sisto bridge in Trastevere is Piazza Trilussa. Similarly to Piazza di Santa Maria, this square features tons of steps to sit on which makes it the perfect spot to relax and enjoy the fresh air. Due to its immense popularity, Piazza Trilussa is now a common place for street musicians and performers to entertain the crowds. For these reasons, you’ll never find this place empty- no matter the time of the year! If you do decide to stay for a while, do as the Romans do and grab some street food or a beverage nearby to indulge in while listening to the music and taking in the scenery.
5) Piazza di Spagna, Monumental Views & Designer Shopping
With the Spanish Steps as a focal piece, Piazza di Spagna is pretty iconic to say the least
Piazza di Spagna is one of the most photographed squares in all of Rome, and that is because it is home to the Spanish Steps! This famously wide and curvy staircase was constructed between 1723 and 1725 with the design of architect Francesco de Sanctis and was built for the purpose of connecting the French Church of Trinità dei Monti above, to the Spanish Embassy to the Holy See below (this is how both the square and steps received their names!) Due to its scenic beauty and prime location in the shopping district of the city center, this piazza is amongst the most popular in the entire city.
Throughout its existence, Piazza di Spagna has inspired writers, poets, and directors alike. In fact, the well known English poet John Keats lived in a house adjacent to the steps which is now a museum dedicated to his life. Piazza di Spagna also rose to fame over the years in beloved films such as Roman Holiday, To Rome With Love, and The Talented Mr. Ripley to name a few. Though the stairs are undoubtedly the most famous aspect of this piazza, you’ll also find the beautiful Barcaccia fountain designed by the artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini and his father at the base of the steps, along with historic cafes and designer shopping lining the perimeter of the square.
6) Piazza del Campidoglio, Michelangelo’s Renaissance Creation on Capitoline Hill
The short climb up to Piazza del Campidoglio is well worth it to see the stunning architecture and unbeatable views of the Roman Forum from behind
Piazza del Campidoglio is an often overlooked gem of Rome located just a short walk away from Piazza Venezia and the Roman Forum. After climbing up the breathtaking staircase to reach this fantastic piazza, you’ll be amazed by the beautiful architectural feat you’ll find. During the 16th century, Pope Paul III Farnese commissioned the talented Renaissance mastermind, Michelangelo, to design a boast worthy square on top of the important and historic site known as Capitoline Hill- and that is exactly what he did!
Michelangelo’s work featured a geometric floor pattern, revamped designs for Palazzo Senatorio and Palazzo dei Conservatori, along with the creation of Palazzo Nuovo. The grand staircase with elongated steps leading up to the square, known as the Cordonata, is also the work of Michelangelo. Today, this modern piazza is home to the fascinating Capitoline Museums and a replica of the original Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius that once stood there many years ago. Just behind the piazza, you’ll also find spectacular views overlooking the Roman Forum that serves as the perfect spot to take photos!
7) Campo de’ Fiori: Bustling Market by Day, Active Social Scene by Night
Looking for fresh produce, souvenirs, or a place to hangout? Look no further than Campo de’ Fiori!
Another scenic Italian square to check out on your next trip to Italy is Campo de’ Fiori, which translates to “field of flowers.” Before the ground was paved in the early 16th century, this unused space between the Theatre of Pompey and the Tiber river was a meadow, which is how Campo dei Fiori received its current name. Over the years, urban development led by the pope allowed this area of Rome to flourish. Inns were constructed, merchants set up shop, and a biweekly horse market took place in the square. Ever since 1869, Campo dei Fiori has held a daily market (running through the morning and early afternoons) where you can find fresh produce, spices, flowers, souvenirs, and more.
Even if the famous market has already closed by the time you arrive, there are still plenty of things to do in Campo dei Fiori, no matter the time of day. For example, you can check out the historic bakeries nearby, grab lunch outdoors on the cobblestone streets, or shop in the local boutiques. Even at night, this piazza is bustling with locals and tourists alike enjoying a beer or two while listening to music played by street performers.
Though this piazza has had many glorious days, it also had a dark past of holding public executions. The central statue in Campo dei Fiori that eerily depicts a man with a hood on, honors the philosopher Giordano Bruno who was burnt alive in 1600 in the square for his unorthodox beliefs about the universe. Today, however, he is celebrated as a martyr for the freedom of thought.
8) Piazza del Popolo, An Impressive Entryway into the City
Piazza del Popolo offers awe-inspiring architecture, a giant obelisk, and historic churches
Piazza del Popolo (People’s Square) may be the last on our list, but it is certainly not the least! This enormous space is one of the largest squares in all of Rome and once served as the main entryway into the city for travelers from the north. After entering the impressive gate within the Aurelian Walls, this piazza was where travelers saw the city for the first time- so of course, it had to make a great impression!
Today, if you enter Piazza del Popolo from the same gate referenced above, one of the first things you’ll notice is a giant Egyptian obelisk that happens to be the second tallest and oldest in all of Rome. A bit further behind, two twin churches stand in perfect symmetry that were created during the Baroque era by Carlo Rainaldi, Bernini, and Carlo Fontana. On either side of the churches and in between, you’ll also see three of the most important streets in Rome that form what many refer to as the “trident.”
If you are able to make your way here, we highly recommend you check out the Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo (located just past the gate) which contains famous artworks by artists such as Caravaggio, Raphael, Bernini, and Donato Bramante. Piazza del Popolo is also home to one of the entrances of Villa Borghese- if you climb up the steps towards the gardens, you’ll eventually reach an amazing lookout point over the square where you can even take in views of St. Peter’s Basilica in the distance!
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Thanks for reading our travel guide to Rome’s Piazzas! Be sure to check out our other posts on Rome to gain further inspiration before departing on your next Italian adventure!
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