Connect the Piazze (Squares)

Not pizza but piazze, the plural of piazza or square, and one of Italy’s great contributions to urban architecture. You’ll find them all over Rome in different sizes, shapes and styles from the circular Piazza del Popolo to the symmetrical Campidoglio. A good place to start or finish a tour of these open spaces is the cozy Piazza Mattei near the Jewish Ghetto with its recently renovated fountain featuring turtles and nymphs. If you’re thirsty the bar facing the fountain is a convenient spot to have a drink while admiring the square.

Piazza Mattei

It’s a short walk down Via della Reginella to Via del Portico d’Ottavia which isn’t technically a square but has been pedestrianized and serves as a gathering point for the Jewish community. There are benches along the way where locals gather and the hustle and bustle of the neighbourhood can be observed. When you’ve gotten your fill of Roman chutzpah head towards the synagogue and cross the Ponte Fabricio bridge to Isola Tiberina.

Portico d’Ottavia

Piazza di San Bartolomeo all’Isola is open on two sides and contains a statue of Saint Bartholomew (one of the original 12 apostles) in the center. Inside the adjacent church is a cannonball  that landed in the building during the French occupation of the city. Most squares have some places to eat (often more expensive or crowded due to location) and if you  desire coffee or gelato there’s a café on the corner.

Piazza di San Bartolomeo

Continue over the Ponte Cesto to the other side of the Tiber, cross the road and go down the steps until you reach Via della Lungaretta. This long, narrow street is one of the gateways to the Trastevere neighborhood and a good introduction to the area. Walk straight until you reach Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere. Here again you’ll find a church and a fountain that is curiously off-center. The church exterior is decorated with images of apostles and there are two cafes with outdoor seating nearby.

Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere

Backtrack slightly and walk down Via Del Moro. If you’re hungry and want to sample local fare take a left on Via della Pelliccia and hope there’s a free table at Da Augusto in the car infested but bucolic Piazza De Renzi. Otherwise continue walking until you reach Piazza Trilussa that fills up on weekends and summer evenings with young Romans enjoying their night out.

Piazza De Renzi

Cross the Ponte Sisto back over the Tiber and turn left onto Via Giulia. When you reach the fountain topped with a fleur-de-lis turn right. Piazza Farnese is a grand square with twin fountains removed from the ancient baths of Caracalla. The stone bench that runs the entire length of the impressive Farnese Palace was a convenient spot to enjoy an urban picnic but has been off limits since the French Embassy, who occupy the building, upgraded security. There’s a bar opposite where locals read their papers in the sunshine and a recently opened organic supermarket in the northwest corner.

Piazza Farnese

The real action takes place a few meters away down Via Dei Baullari in Campo De Fiori. It’s the only campo in Rome which means field and is a synonym for square that’s more commonly used in Venice. There’s a daily vegetable and souvenir market that fills up with tourists in the morning and all sorts of revelry goes on in the bars and restaurants that line the square at night. The Forno on the western side is renown for takeaway pizza bianca (white pizza) that can be enjoyed underneath the statue of the Dominican friar and philosopher who was burned at the stake and stands hooded in the center of the square.

Campo De Fiori

Piazza Navona
is only five minutes away but if you prefer to avoid tourists and discover the intimate side of Rome there are dozens of lesser-known squares waiting to be explored.

Three remarkable cities
in one practical guide:

Moon: Rome, Florence & Venice
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