There are many gorgeous piazzas in Rome. Some are worldwide famous – popular spots in the historic center of town you will come across or specifically visit when in the Italian capital. Others squares in Rome are lesser known, but equally splendid. Many Rome squares are home to gorgeous fountains, beautiful churches and other monuments. But they all have one thing in common: indeed, squares in Rome are all free to visit.
In this post, I highlight the most beautiful piazzas in Rome, selecting the most famous and a few you have likely never heard about, but which are truly worth visiting.
Piazza is Italian for square.
The Prettiest Piazzas In Rome
Piazza Navona is arguably the most famous square in Rome. This popular public square is situated on the ancient Stadium of Domitian, which was founded in the 1st century AD. The square today follows the shape of the stadium.
Historically, residents of ancient Rome would visit the stadium to watch agones (games) which were held in honour of Roman deities. This is why, today, Piazza Navona is also known as Circus Agonalis, literally “Competition Arena”.
Up until the 19th century, the drains of the iconic fountains in Piazza Navona were blocked to flood the square, creating the “Lake of Piazza Navona”, much enjoyed by locals looking to cool off
Piazza Navona is famous for Bernini’s masterpiece the Fountain of the Four River; but you will find two more fountains at the two ends of the square – Fontana del Moro and Fontana del Nettuno. Located on the piazza there also is Borromini’s church of Santa Agnese in Agone.
Check out this guided tour that goes to Piazza Navona, Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon.
Dating back to 1625, this piazza was built by the Barberini family. The large square itself is located in Rome’s city center on the Quirinal Hill, one of Rome’s Seven Hills. At its center sits two famous fountains; Fontana del Tritone, dating back to 1642 and Fontana delle Api, built in 1644. Both were created by the sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680).
Pleasant though this square may be, it has a bit of gory history. Until the 18th century it was a place where unknown human corpses were put on display so people could identify them.
Piazza San Pietro
Piazza San Pietro, or St Peter’s Square, is situated in the Vatican City in front of St Peter’s Basilica, the largest church in the world and a symbol of the tiny nation state itself. The crowning glory of this large square is the curving colonnades, also designed by the eminent Bernini between 1656 and 1657.
From the square, it’s possible to see the papal apartments. This large space was specifically designed so that as many as possible could fit into the square to be blessed by the Pope and hear him talk.
At the center of it all is an ancient Egyptian obelisk erected in 1586.
In the historic center of Rome you’ll find Piazza Colonna. Rectangular in shape, this piazza is named for a marble column that has stood here since 193 AD. This is the Column of Marcus Aurelius, a Roman “victory column” built in honor of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius.
But there’s more to the square than its ancient credentials. Located on the north side of the piazza is the official residence of the prime minister of Italy. Elsewhere in the square, there’s a 19th-century shopping arcade, the Galleria Alberto Sordi (one of the most famous Italian actors of the 29th century). There’s even an old Papal post office here as well.
Piazza di Spagna
Home to the famed Spanish Steps, the Piazza di Spagna or “Square of Spain,” is one of Rome’s most iconic squares. It’s named after the Spanish embassy for the Vatican City, the Palazzo di Spagna, which has stood here on the same site since the 17th century.
At its center is the Fontana della Barcaccia, which was also sculpted by Bernini (and his son).
The 125 Spanish Steps were commissioned in 1725 by Pope Benedict XIII. Next to the famous steps is where English poet John Keats used to live until he died in 1821. His house is now a museum dedicated to him and his friend, poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.
The main square of Rome’s Regola district, Piazza Farnese dates back to the 16th century. Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, the future Pope Paul III, bought up a portion of the city and demolished existing buildings to create the piazza as it stands today.
Interrupted by the sacking of Rome in 1527 by Protestant German soldiers, as well as Spanish troops and Italian mercenaries mutineering over lack of wages, the piazza was finally completed in 1546.
The Cardinal, then Pope, enlisted the talents of Michelangelo to make final touches to the square. This was paved with bricks and decorated with various ornamental sculptures, including Egyptian granite tanks, thought to be the remains of baths.
Perhaps winning the prize for the most impressive square in Rome, the Piazza Venezia is situated at the geometric center of the city. It’s named after Cardinal Venezia, whose nearby palace was constructed in 1455.
Similarly to Paris’ Arc de Triomphe, Piazza Venezia is a grand intersection of several main thoroughfares for the city and is home to Italy’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This is situated in the Altare della Patria, a huge, majestic building dedicated to the first king of unified Italy, Vittorio Emanuele II.
During the construction of Rome’s C Metro Line in 2009 the remains of Emperor Hadrian’s Athenaeum, a school founded way back in the 2nd century AD, were discovered.
Piazza Albania is a relatively new square in Rome. It can be found at the foot of another of Rome’s Seven Hills, the Aventine, along Viale Aventino. Part of an urbanization project for the whole Aventine Hill area, the square was built in the late 19th century, but it is lined with buildings from the mid 20th century.
Before urbanization, the area was essentially agricultural being situated roughly where the Porta Raudusculana, an ancient gate of Rome, once stood. The piazza was first known as Piazza Raudusculana but changed its name in 1940 to commemorate the annexation of Albania the previous year.
At the center of the square is a statue of Giorgio Castriota, known as Skanderbeg, who was an Albanian national hero.
Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere
Situated in trendy Trastevere, the Piazza di Santa Maria is named after the Romanesque Basilica of Santa Maria, one of the oldest churches in Rome. This attractive church has a long history, dating back to 340 AD – it started life as a Christian “house church” in 220 AD.
After many restorations, its current form was completed in 1143 and is resplendent inside with beautiful gilded ceilings and an overall awe-inspiring atmosphere.
Like many squares in Rome, this one features a fountain at its center but this is no ordinary fountain. It’s thought to be one of the oldest still-functioning fountains in the city, dating back to 2 BC (the Augustan period).
Campo de’ Fiori
Meaning “Field of Flowers,” the Campo de’ Fiori is another of Rome’s most famous squares. The name is an old one, dating back to the middle ages when this area was just that, a field of flowers. It was situated on the present-day border between the districts of Parione and Regola.
It was eventually paved on the orders of Pope Callixtus III in 1456 as part of a project to renew the Parione area. A series of impressive buildings were constructed and the square became a hub for local commerce and public executions.
Today, Campo de’ Fiori is well known for its market. During the day, there are flowers, fruit and vegetables and the calls of stallholders, at night, it buzzes with people and restaurants.
Further pointing to its mercantile origins, the various streets leading off from the piazza are named for various trades, for example, Via dei Chiavari (key-makers), Via dei Cappellari (hat-makers) and Via dei Balestrari (crossbow-makers).
Piazza del Campidoglio
At the summit of the Capitoline Hill is where you’ll find the Piazza del Campidoglio. It was commissioned by Pope Paul III in 1536, after seeing the hill in a dismal state, and was designed by the Renaissance architect Michaelangelo as the first of the “modern” piazzas in Rome.
Michelangelo made sure to arrange the square so that it faced St Peter’s Basilica. To do this precisely, he ordered many palaces to be redesigned, as well as the building of another palace, the Palazzo Nuovo, so it would all line up correctly.
It took so long to build that Michelangelo died before it was completed. But his designs were carried through exactly, resulting in the harmonious aspect of the Piazza del Campidoglio today. The only design that wasn’t included was that of paving slabs arranged in a 12-point star pattern, which successive popes refused. Under Mussolini, however, this final touch of the piazza was installed in 1940.
Today the Piazza del Campidoglio is popular with visitors, as it’s also the location of the Capitoline Museum. It’s in this museum that visitors can find a statue of the Capitoline Wolf, said to have raised the mythical founder of Rome, Romulus, and his brother Remus.
This historic square is situated between Via di Ripetta and Via Fontanella Borghese, in an area that was owned for hundreds of years by one of Rome’s most prominent families, the Borghese. This famous family settled in the city in the 16th century and, under Pope Paul V who was a member of the family, expanded the grounds of their properties.
The piazza, therefore, was privately owned and situated adjacent to the family’s palace, the Palazzo Borghese until the late 19th century. This grand building is nicknamed Il Cembalo, which means “The Harpsichord,” due to its peculiar shape, and was once considered one of the Four Wonders of Rome.
Piazza della Repubblica
Considered one of the most important piazzas in Rome, the vast Piazza della Repubblica, also known as Piazza Estrada, is located atop the Viminal Hill (near Termini Station). Its circular shape is due to it being built on the original site of the Roman Baths of Diocletian.
The buildings that edge its circumference were constructed to reflect the ancient structures that once stood here, and which date back to 1887. In the middle of the piazza is a large roundabout with a decorative fountain as its centerpiece, featuring statues depicting naiads or “water nymphs” in Roman mythology.
Piazza della Minerva
This famous piazza is named after the Temple of Minerva, the goddess of wisdom and warfare, which was built on this site by Pompey around 60 BC. At its center there is an interesting monument which is a far cry from Minerva, the Elephant and Obelisk.
The Elephant part of this monument was sculpted by Bernini in 1666. The Obelisk part, however, is much older. Made from striking red granite, the obelisk was discovered during excavations in the nearby Church of Santa Maria and is thought to have been brought to Rome in the 1st century AD for a cult dedicated to the Egyptian goddess Isis.
Fun fact: It was this exact monument that was referenced by Salvador Dali in his 1948 painting, The Elephants.
Piazza Bocca della Verità
As you may be able to tell from the name of the piazza, this is the home of the Bocca della Verità, better known as the “Mouth of Truth”. This square is basically like an open museum. One of the reasons for this is the fact that it’s situated on the site of the ancient Forum Boarium or Cattle Market.
The Mouth of Truth itself is found under the portico of the Basilica Santa Maria, also situated in the piazza. Not only is it home to a church, but there are also ancient arches to behold in the square too. One is Arcus Argentorium (204 AD), or Arch of the Money-changers, and the Arch of Janus (early 4th century AD) dedicated to the god of war and peace, past and future.
There’s also a temple dedicated to Hercules and another to a mysterious Roman deity, Portunus, allegedly a god of keys.
Piazza del Popolo
During the days of Imperial Rome, it was on this site that immigrants from across the empire would first glimpse the city. However, the meaning “People’s Square” in modern day Italian is taken from the name of Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo, situated in the northeast of the piazza.
Its location, once at the northernmost gates of Rome, is today still an important spot, with three main thoroughfares intersecting here. In fact, those three roads branch off to form the so-called “Il Tridente” or “Trident” of the main roads in the city.
At its center there’s an Egyptian obelisk, built on the orders Ramses II (1279-1213 BC) and brought to Rome in 10 BC at the request of Augustus. It was then transferred to the piazza in 1589.
Piazza di Trevi
Home to the iconic Trevi Fountain, this is the most visited piazza in Rome – in fact, if you wish to visit it without the crowds you’ll probably have to go in the middle of the night. What’s interesting to note is that while the fountain – which has been restored to its former glory in recent years – is massive, the actual square is rather small.
Trevi Fountain and Square have been the set of many movies – the most famous ones being La Dolce Vita, by Italian director Federico Fellini; and Tototruffa 62, during which popular Italian actor Toto scams tourists and passersby letting them believe the fountains is his, and agreeint to sell it to a prince.
Visitors typically throw coins in the fountain, which are regularly collected and donated to charity.
Check out this guided tour that goes to Piazza Navona, Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon.
Piazza della Rotonda
This is one of the most famous piazzas in Rome, as it’s right where the Pantheon is located – in fact, it’s often referred to as Piazza del Pantheon.
Located in the historic center of Rome, the main feature of this square is the Pantheon, one of the most impressive landmarks in the Eternal City. Built upon orders of Emperor Hadrian in 126 AD, it used to be a temple which then was turned into a Catholic church in 609 AD. The Pantheon is one of the best preserved buildings in Rome, and a beautiful sight both outside, and inside – where you will be able to see the Dome with its Oculus – the only opening – and the tombs of some notable Italians such as artist Raphael and King Victor Emmanuel II.
Much like other squares in Rome, Piazza della Rotonda is cobbled and has a fountain at the center, and lots of nice cafés.
Not far from Largo di Torre Argentina, this small square in the Jewish Ghetto is a nice, peaceful spot where you’ll be able to see the Fontana delle Tartarughe (Turtle Fountain) which was sculpted by Giacomo della Porta in the 16th century. It’s a lovely place you shouldn’t miss when walking around the Ghetto.
Between Piazza Venezia and the Jewish Ghetto, this is one of the smallest piazzas in Rome, but a completely charming one. It’s actually a great example of medieval architecture – which is often overlooked in Rome. You will find some nice cafés and restaurants there.
One of the best hidden gems in Rome is its Quartiere Coppedé, built in the 1930s and which takes its name from architect Gino Coppedé, who designed most of it, and which is found just outside the historic center of Rome.
Quartiere Coppedé is an incredible mix of Art Nouveau building and classical architecture, with buildings that look often at odd with the rest of the city – but in a completely beautiful way. Facing the lovely Piazza Mincio, at the heart of the district, there are many gorgeous mansions, At its center, there is an intricate fountain with sculpted frogs.
Piazza Damiano Sauli
If you have a knack for getting off the beaten path, this will be one of the nicest squares in Rome for you. It’s located in the Garbatella district, and there you will find a large church and a school in the typical fascist style – which is completely unique to Italy.
Quick Overview Of Rome Piazzas
|PIAZZA NAVONA||Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers; Fontana del Moro and Fontana del Nettuno; Borromini’s church of Santa Agnese in Agone.|
|PIAZZA BARBERINI||Bernini’s Fontana del Tritone and Fontana delle Alpi.|
|PIAZZA SAN PIETRO||Egyptian Oberlisk; Bernini’s Colonnade.|
|PIAZZA COLONNA||Column of Marcus Aurelius and Galleria Alberto Sordi.|
|PIAZZA DI SPAGNA||Spanish Steps and Bernini’s Fontana della Barcaccia.|
|PIAZZA FARNESE||Final touches to the Piazza given by Michelangelo.|
|PIAZZA VENEZIA||Altare della Patria.|
|PIAZZA ALBANIA||Statue of Giorgio Castriota.|
|PIAZZA SANTA MARIA IN TRASTEVERE||Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere.|
|CAMPO DE’ FIORI||One of the most famous markets in Rome; Statue of Giordano Bruno.|
|PIAZZA DEL CAMPIDOGLIO||One of Michelangelo’s piazzas in Rome.|
|PIAZZA BORGHESE||Il Cembalo, aka “The Harpsichord.”|
|PIAZZA DELLA REPUBBLICA||A fountain featuring statues depicting naiads or “water nymphs” in Roman mythology.|
|PIAZZA DELLA MINERVA||Bernini’s Elephant statue.|
|PIAZZA DELLA BOCCA DELLA VERITA’||Rome’s famous Mouth of Truth.|
|PIAZZA DEL POPOLO||The Egyptian obelisk.|
|PIAZZA DI TREVI||Trevi Fountain.|
|PIAZZA DELLA ROTONDA||Rome’s famous Pantheon.|
|PIAZZA MATTEI||Fontana delle Tartarughe.|
|PIAZZA MARGANA||Lovely medieval square.|
|PIAZZA MINCIO||A fountain with sculptured frogs.|
|PIAZZA DAMIANO SAULI||A Fascist era square in the Garbatella district.|
Make sure to read my other posts:
- The Most Famous Landmarks In Rome
- The Most Beautiful Churches In Rome
- The Nicest Parks In Rome
- Where To See The Lovely Cats Of Rome
- The Most Famous Roman Legends
- The Most Famous Roman Gods
- The Best Quotes About Rome
- The Best Rome Virtual Tour
- The Best Tips For Visiting Rome
- Which Are The Seven Hills Of Rome?
- The Most Beautiful Fountains In Rome
- The Nicest Markets In Rome
- The Most Famous Statues In Rome