Piazza del Popolo
One of the largest and famous square in Rome is without any doubt Piazza del Popolo with its enviable location at the end of the so-called Tridente (composed by via del Corso, via del Babuino and via di Ripetta) and at the foot of the Pincian Hill. This large square, whose name seems to derive by the Latin “populus” (poplars) because of a poplar grove that was here in the ancient time, located inside the Aurelian Walls, just beside the northern gate of Porta Flaminia, is today profusely decorated, while it was almost bare until the 16th century. The northern side of the square is occupied by the beautiful church of Santa Maria del Popolo: built by Pope Paschal II in the 1099, it was later modified several times; the last important renovation is the one by Gian Lorenzo Bernini who gave the church the actual aspect between the 1655 and 1660. The interior of this important church in Rome worth a visit: you will admire the Cerasi Chapel with two wonderful canvas by Caravaggio (Crucifixion of St. Peter and Conversion of St. Peter on the Way to Damascus), the Chigi Chapel by Raphael and the Della Rovere Chapel with beautiful Renaissance frescoes by Pinturicchio. The middle of the square is today occupied by a large plinth with four angular fountains and an high obelisk in the centre. The Obelisk (Obelisco Flaminio) is an Egyptian original dating from the time of Ramses II (1200 BC), that was taken by the Emperor Augustus in 10 BC to decorate the central spina of the Circus Maximus in Rome; during the 16th century it was erected in Piazza del Popolo by Pope Sixtus V. The marble plinth with the fountain has been realised later, during the 19th century by Giuseppe Valadier, who changed the shape of the square making it elliptical. Valadier, a neoclassical architect, demolished some buildings and formed two lateral semicircle, decorated by two monumental fountains, the Fountain of Neptune (the one toward the Tiber) and the Rome between the Tiber and the Aniene River Fountain (at the feet of the Pincian Hill). From Piazza del Popolo, nowadays seat of numerous concerts, events and demonstrations, the popular Trident branches out, and the twin churches (chiese gemelle) begun by Carlo Rainaldi and later completed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Carlo Fontana, define the junctions of the roads.