Italy 1400AD-Present-Modern Era Europe Monuments, landmarks

The magic of Piazza del Popolo: A captivating journey into the heart of Rome

Piazza del Popolo - People's Square, Rome
In the heart of Piazza del Popolo shines a true colossus of the past: a stunning obelisk, testimony to the close connection between civilizations. Overwhelming by its height of 24 meters and by its ancestral history, this monumental obelisk, brought from the Egyptian lands, carries in it the old secrets of more than 3000 years. Dating back to 1,200 BC, it bears the imprint of time and the journeys that took it from ancient Egypt to ancient Rome.

Tourist Information

Visiting Hours /
Piazza del Popolo is always open to the public and entry is free.
Getting thereMetro station:  Flaminio – Piazza del Popolo
LocationPiazza del Popolo, 00187, Rome, Italy, Europe


Why is Piazza del Popolo in Rome famous?

Porta del Popolo

At the southern end of the square is the Porta del Popolo, a monumental gate that served as the entrance to the city from the north. The gate has impressive architecture and was rebuilt in the 16th century in the Renaissance style.

In 1562, Pope Pius IV commissioned the architect Nanni di Baccio Bigio to build a large gate, Porta Flaminia, to impress pilgrims entering the city via the Via Flaminia. The gate was later renamed Porta del Popolo.

Piazza del Popolo_People's Square_Rome

Flaminio Obelisk

In the center of Piazza del Popolo is one of the largest obelisks in Rome, brought from Egypt and 24 meters high. The Flaminio Obelisk was built around 1200 BC. and placed in the Temple of the Sun in Heliopolis.

It was brought to Rome in the 1st century AD. and originally located in the Circus Maximus. In the 16th century, Pope Sixtus V moved it to Piazza del Popolo, where it currently stands in the middle of the square.

Piazza del Popolo_People's Square_Rome
Flaminio Obelisk

Neptune’s Fountain

The fountain at the west end of the square is Neptune’s Fountain (Fontana del Nettuno) and depicts the god Neptune accompanied by tritons.

Neptune is the Roman god of the sea and waters. Neptune is represented in a tall and imposing position, holding in his hand a trident, his characteristic symbol.

Fountain of the Goddess of Rome | Fontana della dea di Roma

The fountain at the foot of the Pincio Gardens is known as the Fontana della dea di Roma (Fountain of the Goddess of Rome). The central figure is the goddess Roma, flanked by allegorical figures representing Tiber and Aniene rivers. Below the goddess is a statue of a wolf nursing Remus and Romulus, the founders of Rome.

The fountain was designed and made in 1820-1823 by the Italian sculptor Luigi Amici. It was commissioned by Pope Pius VII as part of efforts to redevelop People’s Square to add beauty and grandeur to it.

The centerpiece of the fountain is a huge marble statue of a woman portraying the goddess Roma, the personification of the city of Rome. The goddess is often depicted with a crown helmet and wearing a cloak. She holds a spear in one hand and a cornucopia in the other and is flanked by allegorical figures representing the rivers Tiber and Aniene. Below the goddess is a statue of a wolf nursing Remus and Romulus, the founders of Rome.

The statue of the Goddess of Rome expresses a powerful symbol of the city and the ancient glory of Rome.

Piazza del Popolo_People's Square_Rome
Fountain of the goddess of Rome Piazza del Popolo_People’s Square_Rome

Place of public executions

The square is at the northern gate of the Aurelian Walls, once Porta Flaminia in ancient Rome, now called Porta del Popolo. This was the starting point of the Via Flaminia, the road to Ariminum (modern Rimini) and the most crucial route to the north. For centuries, Piazza del Popolo was a place for public executions, the last in 1826.

Symmetrical churches

At the southern end of the square are two symmetrical churches on either side of Via del Corso, a street that leads directly into the heart of Rome to Piazza Venezia. The churches, Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria di Montesanto were commissioned by Pope Alexander VII in 1658. Both were designed by Carlo Rainaldi.

Church of Santa Maria di Montesanto
Monday – Friday 17.00 – 20.00 | Sunday 10.30 – 13.30
Holy Mass timetable
Monday – Friday 19.30 | Sunday Mass of the Artists 12.00
Santa Maria dei Miracoli
Every day: 7.00 – 12.30 | 16.00 – 19.30
Holy Mass timetable
Holidays: 10.30 – 11.30 – 12.30 – 19.00
Working days: 7.30 – 12.00 – 19.00
*During the mass visiting the church is not allowed

Piazza del Popolo_People's Square_Rome
Symmetrical churches

Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo

There is one more church in Piazza del Popolo, Santa Maria del Popolo. This is located right next to the Porta del Popolo. The church contains many impressive works of art, including the oldest stained glass windows in Rome and two famous paintings by Caravaggio. The Chigi Chapel, created by Raphael, and the Della Rovere Chapel, embellished with 15th-century frescoes.

Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo
Working days: 7.00 – 12.00 and 16.00 – 19.00
Holidays: 8.00 – 13.30 and 16.30 – 19.15

Piazza del Popolo_People's Square_Rome
Santa Maria del Popolo

Leonardo da Vinci Museum

The Leonardo da Vinci Museum is located next to the Basilica Santa Maria de Popolo.

The exhibition covers a variety of fields in which Leonardo da Vinci excelled, such as painting, anatomy, engineering, mechanics and more. Visitors have the opportunity to explore replicas and models of his inventions, such as flying machines, automated vehicles, and intricate mechanisms. The exhibition also addresses the artistic side of his creation, presenting reproductions of famous paintings such as “Mona Lisa” and “The Last Supper”.

The museum is open daily.

What legends does Piazza del Popolo have?

Piazza del Popolo in Rome has been a central hub for various legends, historical events, and cultural narratives throughout its long history.

The Legend of the Flaminio Obelisk

The legend surrounding the obelisk tells of its connection to Emperor Augustus, who is said to have dreamed of a golden obelisk that would bring him eternal glory. The Flaminio Obelisk is believed by some to be the fulfillment of this prophecy.

Nero and the Fire of Rome

The infamous Emperor Nero is associated with the area around Piazza del Popolo due to the historical events surrounding the Great Fire of Rome in 64 AD. It is said that Nero, accused of starting the fire to clear land for his own grand projects, watched the city burn from a tower in the nearby Mausoleum of Augustus, which is located near the square.

The Legend of symmetrical churches

The twin churches, Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria in Montesanto, located on opposite sides of the square, were constructed in the 17th century. According to local legend, the architects of the churches, Carlo Rainaldi and Gian Lorenzo Bernini, were bitter rivals. It’s said that Bernini designed his church (Santa Maria in Montesanto) as a more beautiful structure to outshine Rainaldi’s design (Santa Maria dei Miracoli).

Ghost of Nero

After Nero committed suicide, he was buried on Pincio Hill, which now overlooks the Piazza del Popolo. Legend has it that after his death he took the form of black ravens and feasted on witches and demons in a nearby walnut tree. Given Nero’s hedonistic parties at the Domus Aurea, it is perhaps not surprising that he continued to feast in the afterlife.
In the 11th century, in an attempt to banish the troublesome ghost of Nero, Pope Paschal II  cut down the tree and built a chapel in its place.

On the site of the present Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo stood the walnut tree that Nero is said to have haunted. There, Pascal II performed a rite of exorcism, struck the walnut with a decisive blow at the root, causing the evil spirits to burst forth, screaming madly. When the whole tree was removed, the remains of Nero were discovered among the ruins; The Pope ordered that they be thrown into the Tiber. Then the Basilica we see today was built.
If you visit the church of Santa Maria del Popolo hoping to see the emperor, you will be disappointed, because the pope’s plan seems to have worked. Ever since the building of the church, Nero’s ghost has not been seen.

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About the author


I am Catalina, and my passion for travel, mysteries, legends and archaeology drives me to explore the world and uncover its hidden wonders.