The last time I went to Piazza del Popolo was in the evening of January 1st 2017.
I wanted to see how The People’s Square looked like during ‘Rome Parade’, Rome’s New Year’s Day celebrations made of a series of magnificent performances by bands, cheerleaders and majorettes from Italy, USA, UK and many other countries.
The route of the parade started from Piazza del Popolo
and then passed along some of Rome’s most famous streets, such as Via del Corso, a street leading straight through the heart of Rome to Piazza Venezia,
Via dei Condotti, Piazza di Spagna,
Via del Babuino, Via di Ripetta, Piazza Augusto Imperatore, and back.
A joyful experience, not adequately publicized as it would deserve, I must say!
But… let’s go back to Piazza del Popolo.
If you’re coming from Piazzale Flaminio (you will, if you arrive by subway), the same Porta del Popolo, The People’s Door, from which people walk, is itself a monument: in 1562 pope Pius IV commissioned a large gate to impress the pilgrims who entered the city via the Via Flaminia. During the 16th and 17th centuries, it was renovated at first in its outer face taking as a model the Roman triumphal arch, and then decorated on the inner face by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The Porta del Popolo leans on the side of the XV century Church of Santa Maria del Popolo.
At that time the square was a place for events and horse races and at its centre already towered the Flaminio obelisk, moved here from the Circo Massimo (Circus Maximus) in 1589 by Pope Sixtus V. The Egyptian obelisk of Sety I, 23.2 meters (73ft) tall, was originally built around 1300 BC and stood at the Sun Temple in Heliopolis. In 10 BC the Roman Emperor Augustus had the obelisk transported all the way to Rome and it was erected at the Circus Maximus to celebrate the conquest of Egypt.
The central fountain in Piazza del Popolo was realized by Giacomo Della Porta in 1573 but the whole square as it is now – with a number of other remarkable fountains – was designed and built by Valadier in 1815-1816.
At the southern end of the square are two symmetrical churches on either side of the Via del Corso. The churches, the Santa Maria dei Miracoli and the Santa Maria in Montesanto were commissioned by pope Alexander VII in 1658 and designed by Carlo Rainaldi.
Originally, the Salita del Pincio (The Pincio Staircase) wasn’t there: now, instead, going up the stairs that are to the left of the square, you arrive at this romantic panoramic place from which you can enjoy a unique view of Piazza del Popolo and of Rome’s rooftops. One of the simplest but more unforgettable things to do in Rome.