The phrase Piazza del Popolo means the people’s square. Over the centuries it has served as the gateway for the road north, the site of public executions and even the pathway for an aqueduct. The present architecture was designed in 1811 and today it’s a pedestrian only throughway in a city that often feels oppressively crowded.
Rome’s piazzi are probably the best places to sit back and people watch. See and be seen so to speak, even better if you can enjoy a glass of wine or a small plate of snacks while doing so. The Piazzi typically have a central fountain (often part of the old aqueduct system), works of art in their own right. Piazza del Popolo’s fountain is a terminal of the aqueduct system. Often terminal fountains have a show, called mostra where water may flow from an animal’s mouth or mythological deity’s hand in such a beautiful way that it’s a monument to the architecture.
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IF YOU GO: Going to Rome requires a certain acceptance that the best part of Rome is not in a museum or archeological ruin- it’s in the piazzas. Schedule time if you can do it no other way, to sit at a piazza café and watch the people go by. Even better if you can find one of the many apartments in Rome and do the same from your own balcony. La dulce fara niente as the Italians say, the sweetness of doing nothing.
Photo Credit: Flickr user Ed Yourdon via a creative commons license