In Rome there is a piazza round almost every corner, each with its own unique atmosphere. Here is a list of 10 of the most evocative and enticing squares to check out in the Eternal City.
Probably the most elegant piazza in Rome, Piazza Navona was constructed over the ruins of the ancient circus of Domitian and maintains its distinctive oval shape, albeit now lined with gorgeous pastel palazzi and dotted with elaborate Baroque fountains. The square is always bustling with activity but is worth visiting at night when the tourist crowds die down and Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers is perfectly lit.
Campo de’ Fiori
Home to one of Rome’s most historic and colourful markets, Campo de’ Fiori should be seen in the morning when locals and visitors rub shoulders while stocking up on fresh produce. The name refers to the ‘field of flowers’, which was what the site was in ancient times before being developed into a public square used for executions (note the ominous statue of the heretic Giordano Bruno who was burned at the stake on this site in 1600). Once the market clears and the sun begins to set, Campo de’ Fiori begins its transformation into one of Rome’s most frequented nightlife spots thanks to the concentration of bars and eateries in the area.
Piazza di Spagna
With the iconic Spanish Steps and multiple designer stores and boutiques, Piazza di Spagna is the hub of upper-class Rome and one of the most instantly recognisable spots in the city. Head there early in the morning to get the staircase (almost) to yourself or join the throng at sunset when the piazza is bathed in a rosy glow and climbing to the top of the steps will reward you with one of the most romantic views of the Eternal City.
Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere
Piazza Santa Maria is the centre of the picturesque yet trendy neighbourhood of Trastevere, located across the Tiber River to the south. During the day, the piazza is a sleepy, chilled-out spot to sit back and admire the eponymous church but come evening it becomes a hive of activity with locals grabbing an aperitivo and street performers and musicians entertaining the crowds.
Piazza del Campidoglio
Michelangelo designed the geometric Piazza del Campidoglio as well as the surrounding palazzi which are now the site of the Capitoline Museums, home to some of Rome’s most important ancient artifacts, as well as Rome’s town hall. A grandiose staircase leads up to the piazza, which is dominated by a replica of a bronze equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius now found inside the museums. Head to the balcony at the rear of the piazza for an unrivalled view across the Roman Forum to the Colosseum.
Piazza della Rotonda
As you turn a corner into Piazza della Rotonda, you are immediately confronted with the majestic grandeur of the Pantheon, the best-preserved temple in Rome which dates back to the 2nd century and is now a functioning church. The piazza itself, with its pretty fountain and lively cafés, is the place to pull up a chair and admire the amazing feat of ancient engineering while doing a little people-watching.
Piazza San Pietro
The vast expanse of St Peter’s Square provides the perfect approach to Basilica di San Pietro, the largest church in the world and symbol of the Vatican. The two sweeping colonnades were designed by Bernini to represent welcoming arms and the square was constructed to accentuate the enormity of the building and to allow as many people as possible into the piazza to see the pope. Make sure to visit at night when the hoards of tourists have dispersed and the empty piazza and church are beautifully illuminated with a warm light.
Piazza del Popolo
One of the largest squares in Rome, the circular Piazza del Popolo is almost perfectly symmetrical, from the twin churches on the southern edge to the fountains on either side, while the centre of the square is dominated by the imposing imposing Egyptian obelisk. The size of the piazza makes it a frequent location for concerts and events in the summer months, while a trip up the steps to the edge of the piazza will bring you to the Pincio terrace, which offers a fantastic view over the piazza and right across the rooftops of the city.
Piazza della Madonna dei Monti
As the social hub of the hip district of Monti, the small but lively Piazza della Madonna dei Monti is the hangout spot of choice for young Romans on warm summer evenings. Grab a bottle of beer and a bench by the fountain to join in with the locals or settle down for an aperitivo at one of the charming outdoor bars.
Piazza Mattei is a tiny, quiet square in the Jewish Ghetto quarter of Rome that gives of an air of peace and tranquility at any time of the day or night. The pretty piazza is famous for the gently trickling waters of the Fontana delle Tartarughe, the Turtle Fountain, which was designed by architect Giacomo della Porta in the 16th century.