“Il Babuino”, Via Ripetta and Via del Corso are the three main roads flowing into Piazza del Popolo. The square’s fame spread worldwide over the years as a site for public executions, fairs, carnivals, games and competitions and as a symbol of Renaissance papal patronage.
The traveller is greeted on his arrival with Bernini’s inscription over the northern gate, Porta del Popolo, (the former Porta Flaminio) “Felice faustoque ingressini MDCLV” (For a happy and blessed entrance); a message left for Queen Christina on her arrival in Rome following her conversion to Roman Catholicism. Today it welcomes the millions of visitors who annually flock here to admire the piazza’s cultural and historical splendour.
The piazza’s charm is principally heightened by the twin Churches of Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria di Montesanto, the obelisk (known as the Oblisco Flaminio) which is the oldest and second tallest in Rome and the two Valadier fountains.
Standing at one end of this exquisite piazza, designed by Neoclassical Architect Giuseppe Valadier between 1811 and 1822, and alongside the gate, is the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo. Built on the burial site of Emperor Nero, it is an artistic treasure house under whose roof may be found several major works, including two magnificent paintings by Caravaggio.
The piazza has over the centuries managed to maintain its very Roman flavour, not surprisingly really given it has always been a favourite haunt for countless figures who have made major contributions to Roman culture: the Dialect Poet Trilussa, Painter Guttuso and Film Director Pier Paolo Pasolini to name … but a very few.