There are so many things to see and do in Rome that it’s impossible to list them all. If you are staying long enough, you can draw some pretty exciting and rich Rome itineraries, but let’s say that you are spending only one day in Rome and still want to see different areas but don’t have the time to enter many landmarks, what can you do? Thankfully, Rome is gorgeous inside out, from whichever point of view you look. So if you have limited time but still want to collect as many postcard-like shots as possible, one of the best things you can do is to discover Rome’s most beautiful piazzas.
Here, we are listing Rome’s prettiest squares that you can visit, walk by, or cross on your way to other attractions or simply sit and stare at the surrounding buildings that frame them. This is a fantastic way to see plenty of what the city has to offer and discover the best things to do in Rome that are absolutely free.
Discover the prettiest piazzas in Rome
Piazza del Popolo
Arguably the world’s most glamorous entrance to a historic center, Piazza del Popolo, in the heart of Rome, is the city’s most scenic piazza. From its imposing gate to Santa Maria del Popolo Basilica to the stunning fountains all around, Piazza del Popolo exudes royalty and elegance from every corner.
If you reach from Flaminio metro station, you will step over the Flaminio Gate, and after visiting the main church on your left-hand side, make your way to see the different fountains, the two on the edges of the piazza, Neptune’s Fountain, and Fountain of Goddess Roma, and the central one, the beautiful Fountain of the Lions with an Egyptian obelisk in the middle. Go past the twin churches and step over the Tridente neighborhood in its shopping streets Via del Corso, Via del Babuino, and Via Ripetta.
Hard to beat when it comes to aesthetics, history, and location, Piazza Navona is regarded by many as one of Rome’s most beautiful squares. Elliptical in shape because built on top of 1st-century the Stadium of Domitian, this gorgeous square is dominated by the giant Four Rivers’ Fountain, spectacular work by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, and the facing church of Sant’Agnese in Agone by architect genius Francesco Borromini, Bernini’s peer and eternal rival. But don’t stop here, because Piazza Navona is the setting for other masterpieces, including the two fountains placed in the northern and southern edges, and the archaeological site of the Domitian Stadium.
Piazza di Spagna
The famous Rome square at the foot of the mighty Spanish Steps and Trinità dei Monti church, Piazza di Spagna hosts the Barcaccia fountain by Bernini’s father, who was helped by his more famous son, Gian Lorenzo, to complete the work. All around is a cluster of exclusive shopping streets starting from the brand-lined Via dei Condotti to carry on with Via Borgognona, Via Frattina, and Via del Babuino. Some of the brands you can shop from in this area are Italian designers like Valentino, Prada, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, and Bulgari, as well as international ones such as Cartier, Chanel, and Dior. For a well-deserved treat after such a shopping spree, stop at Antico Caffè Greco for some Italian coffee and pastries or at Babington’s Tea Rooms for an English tea experience next to Keats-Shelley House Museum.
Piazza della Rotonda
This is a small square in Rome but the building that dominates the whole view alone is enough to make it one of the most precious piazzas in Rome. The Pantheon, now a Catholic church but founded as the temple to all gods, has been the world’s largest dome for centuries. Commissioned by Marcus Agrippa during the rule of Augustus, the Pantheon is indeed one of Rome’s earliest temples and for sure one of the most majestic ones. Not being huge inside makes it an easy landmark to visit and a very interesting one since it’s only inside that you can see the tombs of a few members of the former Italian royal family and of the great Renaissance painter Raphael.
But let’s face it, the Pantheon really inspires you to stare at its exterior, with its giant cupola and imposing facade. Sit around the beautiful 16th-century fountain and enjoy the view. And if you feel like treating yourself with one of the best gelato in Rome, head behind the Pantheon, in Piazza Sant’Eustachio, and enter Punto Gelato Italiano for some creamy flavors and daring combinations.
Piazza di Trevi
The world-famous Baroque Trevi Fountain is the highlight of its namesake piazza and the most important landmark to visit even though not the only one. All around the Trevi area are several interesting sites to visit, especially the ruins of the ancient Aqua Virgo aqueduct, of which the Trevi Fountain is the last show. Parts of the aqueducts can be traced nearby in locations such as the undergrounds of La Rinascente shopping mall in Via del Tritone, or in Vicus Caprarius archaeological site where are visible the cistern of the aqueduct and parts of the ancient neighborhood presumably dating back to Nero time. Piazza di Trevi feels small and overshadowed by the giant fountain, but its historical value is compelling enough to go beyond the Baroque masterpiece.
Piazza San Pietro
The creation of artist genius Gian Lorenzo Bernini, St. Peter’s Square hardly needs any introduction. Framed by the wonderful Bernini’s colonnade and dominated by the grand facade of Saint Peter’s Basilica, the elliptical Piazza San Pietro was completed in 1667. Part of the square covers where was once the circus built by emperor Caligula, later called Nero’s Circus, where the persecution of early Christians took place.
An Egyptian obelisk probably made in the city of Heliopolis,stands tall in the center of the square. It was originally erected in the Forum Iulii of Alexandria and then brought to Rome by Caligula in 40 BCE. It remained in Nero’s Circus also after the stadium was not operative anymore because occupied by the increasing number of graves in the ancient necropolis that can be found under St. Peter’s Basilica and then moved next to the 4th-century Constantinian Basilica, until the 16th century when Pope Sixtus V ordered to place it where it is now.
Apart from the mesmerizing colonnade, the piazza counts two beautiful fountains that look identical but that in reality bear some difference and are the work of two different artists, Bernini’s the one on the left facing the Basilica, and Maderno the one on the right.
Campo de’ Fiori
Literally standing for “field of flowers”, quaint Campo de’ Fiori belongs to Rome’s working-class past, and its surrounding alleys, all named after an unskilled-labor profession, are the irrefutable proof of that. In the middle, you won’t fail to notice the giant statue of Giordano Bruno right on the place where the monk was burnt at stake in a time of Roman history when Christian rulers and the Holy Inquisition had very little tolerance for diverging opinions. Every day, a colorful and quite touristy local market animates the area: here tourists can find all kinds of Italian souvenirs they wish to bring home. If the vibe sucks you in and lunchtime you are still here, why not join locals in grabbing a hearty supplì from nearby Supplizio, one of my favorite street food places in Rome?
Piazza del Campidoglio
If you consider the place where Rome was founded, the heart of the ancient city, where the current mayor’s seat is located and where is set one of Rome’s main museums, Musei Capitolini, Piazza del Campidoglio reeks of history, culture, and importance. A stone’s throw from another great square, Piazza Venezia, where you will certainly end up over and over again during your Rome sightseeing, this is a must to visit, even if this requires a lengthy, monumental staircase to climb.
This giant square located at the foot of Capitoline Hill is a busy pedestrian, sightseeing, and public transport hub. This is probably why it’s a little difficult to just stop and enjoy its beauty, but not impossible! The main monument that dominates Piazza Venezia is the Altar of the Fatherland located in the Vittoriano complex, the Monument devoted to former Italian king Vittorio Emanuele II. In the middle, slightly on the right side facing the Vittoriano is a small space with benches where you can sit and relax.
From Piazza Venezia, you can easily reach Piazza del Campidoglio, Via dei Fori Imperiali, Trajan’s Forum and Trajan’s Markets, as well as the trendy Via del Corso shopping street.
Piazza del Quirinale
Situated on top of Rome’s tallest hill, Piazza del Quirinale is not huge but offers a fantastic view of the city and Saint Peter’s dome. Here you can see the Quirinale Palace, now the seat of the President of the Republic, but previously the residence of the Popes until 1870 and of the former Italian kings until 1946. In the middle of the square is a 15-mt-tall obelisk originally transported to Rome as an ornament to the Mausoleum of Augustus together with the one that now stands in Piazza Esquilino and the marble sculpture of Castor and Pollux Dioscuri.
Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere
Dominated by Santa Maria in Trastevere Basilica, probably Rome’s first official Christian worship place and for sure the first place officially devoted to the Holy Mary, this is one of Rome’s favorite town squares by locals and tourists, always brimming with young people and travelers sitting on the central fountain. On the left side of the basilica stands St. Calixtus Palace. According to the legend, this was built on the site of Pope Calixtus I’s house, where he was killed because seen praying by a group of Roman pagans. The square is in the heart of the Trastevere neighborhood and the perfect starting point to visit all the highlights such as the Botanical Garden, local restaurants, and fantastic gelaterias.
Surrounded by great walks from all sides, from 16th-century Piazza Barberini legendary streets like Via Veneto, Via del Tritone and the quaint Via delle Quattro Fontane open up. Very easy to reach by metro (Barberini stop), in the middle is the beautiful Fontana del Tritone (Triton’s Fountain) by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, who was one of the main architects of the adjacent Palazzo Barberini. From here, you can either proceed with your sightseeing, including a visit to the bizarre bone-adorned Capuchin Crypt in Via Veneto, one of Rome’s most appreciated hidden gems, or go for a shopping spree.
Piazza della Repubblica
Between the busy hub of Stazione Termini, Via Nazionale shopping street, and the Baths of Diocletian, once Rome’s largest and most magnificent, now one of the venues of the fantastic Museo Nazionale Romano, is Piazza della Repubblica, more often than not neglected because of the big traffic. Previously named Piazza Esedra, in its heart is the Fountain of the Naiads, built by Mario Rutelli and Alessandro Guerrieri between 1885 and 1914, and the last fountain of the Aqua Marcia aqueduct. On the side, is Michelangelo’s beautiful Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri Basilica.
In the heart of the Coppedè Quarter, Piazza Mincio has in its very center the Fountain of the Frogs and is surrounded by the quirky and original buildings that define this Liberty-style neighborhood. Even though not too far from the city center and close to Villa Borghese Park, the moment you step over Piazza Mincio, you won’t feel in Rome anymore. Mythological figures of animals and Gothic-styles monsters are some of the images you will get in this one-of-a-kind Rome neighborhood located in the elegant Trieste quarter.
This small town square is located in the heart of Rome’s Jewish Quarter. Framed by notable palaces such as Palazzo Costaguti, beautifully frescoed by Guercino, Domenichino, and Lanfranco, in the middle is one of Rome’s most beautiful fountains, the Fountain of the Turtles. Designed by Giacomo della Porta in the 16th century, the turtles are probably addition by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and since they have been stolen several times, now these are a copy of the original ones kept in the Capitoline Museums.
At the heart of the traditional Testaccio quarter, Rome’s Piazza Testaccio, formerly known as Piazza Mastro Giorgio like the neighboring namesake street, is actually pretty recent. It was built in 1900 by strong popular will in order to stop the savage urban development. For many years, this was the location of the famous Mercato Testaccio that has been moved to the covered venue in Via Galvani.