Three under the radar piazzas in Rome

Piazza Navona (the one with three fountains), Piazza di Spagna (the one with the stairs), Piazza del Popolo (the one with the obelisk) and Piazza Venezia (the one with a massive white building). All of them are terrific, fascinating, inspiring and… crowded, touristic, too well-known, too monumental, and too cliché. They are a «must-see», but honestly, I’d rather sit in a small piazza hiding behind a massive church built in the 15th century by less popular sculptors. So here it is, my mini guide to the piazzas that you, while not necessarily must, «may» see when you’re in Rome.

 

Piazza Mattei

piazza mattei roma

With its astonishing Fontana delle Tartarughe (Fountain of Turtles) in its center, this piazza is a must. Why turtles, you may ask. Rome doesn’t seem to be a turtle-friendly city. Well, here is the explanation that I found…the fountain was built in 1580. The young sculptor who decorated it, Taddeo Landini, created statues of four ephebes and eight dolphins for it. Later on, four of the animals were removed from the piazza because of the fountain’s low water pressure, leaving the upraised hands of the statues with not much of a purpose. To correct this problem and balance the composition, the four turtles were added during a restoration of the fountain in 1658.

For a short break:

Le tartarughe eat & drink (Piazza Mattei, 7/8). Stylish and modern, this bar and restaurant is great for freshly-squeezed juices, coffees and quick sandwiches. NB: the bar charges for the table service!

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Piazza di Pietra

piazza di pietra roma

This Piazza of Stone (derived from the use of the temple’s stones to build the piazza) is famous for the colonnade (is a long sequence of columns joined by their entablature) of the Temple of Hadrian. Its façade (the only part that has survived with the ages) was incorporated into a 17th-century palace. My advice: stop in the middle of the piazza trying to imagine how impressive it must have been hundreds of years ago.

For a short break:

Salotto 42 (Piazza di Pietra, 42). This tiny bar in one of Rome’s most beautiful piazzas has almost nothing special about it except…the crowd! How is it barely possible that in this 45m2 bar one can meet Oscar-nominated screenwriters, actors, musicians, restorators! Come during the aperitif time, and try the cocktails that they make: classy, simple, and…delicious.

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Piazza della Madonna dei Monti

The ultimate guide of Monti Neighbourhood of Rome

You need (oh no, wait, you MUST) to see this piazza on a summer night during its «busy» peak time, when young people are hanging out in it drinking, chatting, singing on the fountain stairs. The fountain itself was built in 1588 by Battista Rusconi and must have seen more stories about love, hatred, friendship, and other things than I would be able to imagine.

For a short break:

Forno da Milvio (Via dei Serpenti, 7). When in Italy, act as Italians do: get some pizza al taglio (sliced pizza) to take away. Then go back to the fountain, sit down on one of the steps, slowly open your pizza box, enjoy the smell of the melted cheese on a crispy crust, take a bite with a satisfied face (while looking at the seagulls that can’t wait to steal the tiny bit of pizza still left in the box).

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