Piazza del Popolo

Once the northern entrance to ancient Rome, today the Piazza del Popolo is perhaps best known for its Egyptian obelisk.

A grand entrance

Back in the day, this massive square was the first point of contact for visitors to Rome. Here the ancient Via Flaminia passed the Aurelian Walls – the fortifications that surrounded the Eternal City’s seven hills. Today, the neighborhoods north of Rome are a good spot to find a deal on a hotel, so the Piazza del Popolo may be your entry point to the city center as well.

Beautiful design

This corner of Rome may have its roots in ancient times, but it naturally looked different way back when. The neoclassical design you see today was laid out in the early 19th century by Giuseppe Valadier. He cleared out the once cramped square to form a vast plaza reminiscent of St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican.

Home to Rome’s obelisk

By far, the most identifiable feature of the “People’s Square” is the Egyptian obelisk towering over its pedestrian-friendly paths. Originally constructed in Heliopolis by Sety I and Ramses II, the Flaminio obelisk was brought to Rome by the emperor Augustus to decorate the Circus Maximus. It’s not the oldest or tallest of Rome’s eight Egyptian obelisks, but it is certainly one of the most iconic.