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Piazza Del Popolo Rome Italy

Piazza Del Popolo Rome Italy (Known places)

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Tags: rome (22 pics), italy (132 pics)

The Piazza del Popolo is a large square in Rome. The name in modern Italian literally means "piazza of the people", but historically it derives from the poplars (populus in Latin, pioppo in Italian) after which the church of Santa Maria del Popolo, in the northeast corner of the piazza, takes its name.

The Piazza lies inside the northern gate in the Aurelian Walls, once the Porta Flaminia of ancient Rome, and now called Porta del Popolo. This was the starting point of the Via Flaminia, the road to Ariminum (modern Rimini) and the most important route to the north. At the same time, before the age

Valadier's design

The layout of the piazza today was designed in neoclassical style between 1811 (209 years ago) and 1822 (198 years ago) by the architect Giuseppe Valadier, who demolished some insignificant buildings and haphazard high screening walls to form two semicircles, reminiscent of Bernini's plan for St. Peter's Square, replacing the original cramped trapezoidal square centred on the Via Flaminia. Valadier's Piazza del Popolo, however, incorporated the verdure of trees as an essential element; he conceived his space in a third dimension, expressed in the building of the viale that leads up to the balustraded overlook from the Pincio (above, right).

An Egyptian obelisk of Rameses II from Heliopolis stands in the centre of the Piazza. The obelisk, known as the obelisco Flaminio, is the second oldest and one of the tallest obelisks in Rome (some 24 m high, or 36 m including its plinth). The obelisk was brought to Rome in 10 BC by order of Augustus and originally set up in the Circus Maximus. It was re-erected here in the Piazza by the architect-engineer Domenico Fontana in 1589 (431 years ago) as part of the urban plan of Sixtus V. The Piazza also formerly contained a central fountain, which was moved to the Piazza Nicosia in 1818 (202 years ago), when fountains in the form of Egyptian-style lions were added around the base of the obelisk.

Looking from the north (illustration, right), three streets branch out from the Piazza, forming the so-called "trident" (il Tridente): the Via del Corso in the centre, the Via del Babuino on the left (opened in 1525 (495 years ago) as the Via Paolina) and the Via di Ripetta (opened by Leo X in 1518 (502 years ago) as the Via Leonina) on the right. Twin churches (the chiese gemelle) of Santa Maria dei Miracoli (1681, 339 years ago) and Santa Maria in Montesanto (1679, 341 years ago), begun by Carlo Rainaldi and completed by Bernini and Carlo Fontana, define the junctions of the roads. Close scrutiny of the twin churches reveals that they are not mere copies of one another, as they would have been in a Neoclassical project, but vary in their details, offering variety within their symmetrical balance in Baroque fashion.

To the south, the central Via del Corso follows the course extended beyond the city gate as the ancient Roman Via Flaminia, coming from the Capitol and the forum. The Via Flaminia became known as the Via Lata in the Middle Ages, before becoming today's Via del Corso and leads to the Piazza Venezia. The Via di Ripetta leads past the Mausoleum of Augustus to the Tiber, where the riverside landing called the Porto di Ripetta was located until the late nineteenth century. The Via del Babuino ("Baboon"), linking to Piazza di Spagna, takes its name from a grotesque sculpture of Silenus that gained the popular name of "the Baboon".

To the north of the Piazza stand the Porta del Popolo, leading to the Piazzale Flaminio, and the ancient church of Santa Maria del Popolo. The Porta del Popolo was reconstructed to the current appearance by Pope Alexander VII in 1655 (365 years ago), to welcome Queen Christina of Sweden to Rome after her conversion to Roman Catholicism and abdication. It was designed by Bernini: whereas such festive structures elsewhere were built of weather-resistant plaster, in Rome the structure was more permanently executed in stone. Opposite Santa Maria del Popolo stands a Carabinieri station, with a dome reflecting that of the church.

In his urbanistic project, Valadier constructed the matching palazzi that provide a frame for the scenography of the twin churches and hold down two corners of his composition. A third palazzo he set to face and matched low structure screening the flank of Santa Maria del Popolo, with its fine Early Renaissance fa├žade, together holding down the two northern corners. Valadier outlined this newly-defined oval forecourt to the city of Rome with identical sweeps of wall, forming curving exedra-lke spaces. Behind the western one, a screen of trees masks the unassorted fronts of buildings beyond.


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