Today we’re taking the metro to Flaminio and starting off our day at Piazza del Popolo, a circular square with three fountains. On the north side is a gate called the Porto del Popolo, once the beginning of Via Flaminia, an important ancient Roman road which led to the north of Italy. Piazza del Popolo would be the first thing that visitors, travelling from the north, would lay eyes on.
Just looking at the piazza now, I reckon it would have been a grand sight, even back then, and one that would excite people into seeing more of the city. The piazza was used for public executions up until 1826, but, thankfully, these days it’s a much more happy and relaxed place and completely pedestrianised where people can come together to engage in more fun activities.
Depending on the story you choose to believe, Piazza del Popolo’s name is due the many poplar trees dotted around or it may have been named after the church of Santa Maria del Popolo which is adjacent to the main gate. The piazza is located at the top of three main streets, Via del Corso, Via del Babuino, and Via di Ripetta. Once called the Tridente, these three routes would have led to Rome’s main basilicas. The beginning of the tridente is marked by two churches, Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria in Montesanto.
The three fountains in the piazza were all built by Giovanni Ceccarini in the 19th century. On opposite sides, are the Fontana del Nettuno (Fountain of Neptune) and Fontana della Dea Roma (Fountain of the Goddess Rome) which depicts Dea Roma armed with her weapons with the she-wolf suckling Romulus and Remus, in front. In the middle of the piazza is the Fontana dell’ Obelisco (Fountain of the Obelisk) which is actually four mini fountains with a lion on each plinth and the fountain, as a whole, surrounds the obelisk of pharaoh, Seti I which is one of the tallest obelisks in Rome.
We walked through Porto del Popolo, onto the piazza, and stood watching a group of kids playing Sunday morning football. There were loads of people around, but there was no jostling to get a spot to see anything because there was plenty of room to take photographs and take a leisurely walk around the piazza.
We left Piazza del Popolo and wondered up the steps to Pincio Gardens. We didn’t go into the gardens, but took a stroll along Viale della Trinita dei Monti towards the Trinita dei Monti church and the Spanish steps. The views across the rooftop of Rome were fabulous.
We arrived at the Spanish Steps, so named, not because they were built by a Spanish architect, but because the Spanish embassy is located at the bottom.
There are 135 steps leading down to Piazza di Spagna which were designed by architects Francisco de Sanctis and Alessandro Specchi and are adorned with planters of beautiful flowers all the way down.
There were hundreds of people in the piazza and before we headed down into the throng of things, it was nice to stand at the top and look down on all the activity below.
At the bottom, is Fontana Della Barcaccia (Fountain of the Longboat) which is Baroque in design and created by Bernini’s father.
From there, we wandered through the piazza and found a cafe to sit and relax for a while over a coffee (wine!!!) before heading to the metro to go to the other side of the city and Piazza Vittorio Emanuele.
Piazza Vittorio Emanuele is home to Giardini Nicola Calipari, a small garden which really comprises the whole piazza. Although there is a fountain and some ruins there, it isn’t as attractive as other gardens in Rome because it was a little run down and the grass was overgrown in parts.
However, there was a lively Hindu festival in full swing and the colours of the women’s saris together with the music added a touch of excitement in an otherwise drab space.
From the piazza we walked towards Piazza di Santa Maria Maggiore and the grand domed basilica of the same name. We by-passed the impressive building and found a little restaurant tucked in a little cobbled alleyway. The weather wasn’t what you’d call warm, but it wasn’t cold enough that we had to sit inside, so still wrapped in scarves, we found a table and sat and watched the world go by as we enjoyed our lunch.
We realized we weren’t that far from our hotel, so we took a slow walk back to Via Nazionale and stopped off for an afternoon tipple before we headed back to our hotel to get ready for our second to last night out in Rome.
Next time: Isola Tiberina