Rome is studded with hundreds of charming squares. Here are five piazzas you must see when you’re in town.
The piazzas of Rome – like every other corner of the Italian capital – are part of our collective imagination thanks not only to film but also to history, art and even Instagram. It’s easy to recognize the iconic dome and colonnade of St. Peter’s Square, the Trevi fountain from La Dolce Vita in its namesake piazza and the colossal Vittoriano in Piazza Venezia, among others.
Hundreds of squares dot the Eternal City, and all are well worth a visit. So, to get you started here’s a look at five of Rome’s most beautiful squares that you can visit, photograph and admire.
1. Piazza Navona
Let’s start with the mother of all Roman squares, one of the most famous and certainly one of the most beautiful: Piazza Navona, of course. This emblem of Baroque Rome comprises three magnificent and equally famous fountains: Bernini’s Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Four Rivers Fountain), Fontana del Tritone (Triton Fountain) and Fontana del Moro (Fountain of the Moor). The Four Rivers Fountain personifies the Danube, Ganges, Nile, and Rio della Plata rivers into beautiful marble giants: Visitors flock here by the thousands every day, but in the evening, when Rome goes to sleep, a magical aura fills the air. If you look closely, it might even seem as if the fountains’ statues come to life and talk to each other.
2. Piazza di Spagna
Piazza di Spagna is one of Rome’s most iconic Roman squares. Not only has it been the backdrop for countless fashion shows over the years, but the square’s unmistakable Trinità dei Monti stairway is where Audrey Hepburn enjoyed a gelato while waiting for Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday. At the foot of the stairway, in addition to the famous Barcaccia Fountain sculpted by Bernini’s son, stands the house-turned-museum of the English poet John Keats.
3. Piazza della Bocca della Verità
This mysterious and fascinating ancient square comprises the Arch of the Money-Changers (Arcus Argentariorum); the Arch of Janus; the Temple of Hercules and the Temple of Portunus. However, it’s most famous for a legendary monstrous stone mask that is believed to have the power to reveal and punish liars. Once upon a time, trials took place there. The defendant had to place his hand inside the monster’s mouth while he underwent questioning. If the judge thought he was lying, a soldier hidden behind the mask would cut off his hand. This is the origin of the legend of the Mouth of Truth (Bocca della Verità), which was also seen in Roman Holiday. After saying something absurd, Gregory Peck pretends that the stone monster relieved him of his hand. Alfred Hitchcock, the master of suspense, loved the Bocca della Verità so much that he posed beside it for one of his most famous portraits.
4. Campo de’ Fiori
Although now famous for its vibrant nightlife, there was a time when Campo de’ Fiori had a sinister connotation. In fact, torture and capital punishments were once carried out here. One of the many infamous executions that took place there was Giordano Bruno’s, the famous philosopher burned at the stake under the accusation of heresy on 17 February 1600. Today his bronze statue stands in the center of the square, his defiant eyes facing the Vatican. Perhaps this could be why Campo de’ Fiori is the only Roman square in which there are no churches? The daily market makes Campo de’ Fiori one of Rome’s liveliest and quintessentially Italian squares.
5. Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere
Despite its rampant tourism and modernity, Trastevere maintains an authentic and intimate vibe, closer to what one might find in a small village than in a big city like Rome. In this regard, Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere, which is centered around an ancient fountain, looks like the heart of a small village. The square’s eponymous church was probably Rome’s first Christian house of worship. Remains of the ancient basilica, fragments of friezes, sarcophagi, frescoes and tombstones can be found under its arcades.