Piazza San Pietro (St. Peter’s Square)
When each part of Piazza San Pietro is a masterpiece in itself, the whole can only be something that is nothing short of great power and beauty. Wherever you are here on a religious pilgrimage or just to admire the artistic and cultural heritage of Rome, St. Peter’s Square is a must-do stop on your itinerary through the Eternal City.
A bit of history…
St. Peter’s Square has had its look without major changes since the 17th century. Designed and built between 1656 and 1667 by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, the square was conceived with the idea to give the greatest number of people the chance to see the Pope giving his blessings, either from the middle of the façade of the church or from a window in the Vatican Palace. The square is subdivided in two different areas: one in the shape of the trapezoid creates a heightened perspective for a visitor leaving the basilica, another of the elliptical shape is surrounded by two spectacular colonnades. In the middle of the elliptical square there is an Egyptian obelisk, which was erected at the current site in 1586 before Bernini has started working on the site, so he had to incorporate it into the design. Out of the two fountains on either side of the obelisk, one was created by Carlo Maderno in 1613, and Bernini had to replicate it on the other side in 1675 to contribute to the symmetry of the square.
The spacious Via della Conciliazione was created between 1936 and 1950 (in time for the great Jubilee of 1950) during the rule of Benito Mussolini with the idea to give immediate access to the square and perfect view of the basilica from the river and Castel Sant’Angelo. A decision raised a lot of controversy due to the fact that an important medieval and renaissance quarter of the city had to be demolished to construct the large avenue. Moreover, the appearance of the unobstructed view canceled the characteristic Baroque surprise, nowadays maintained only for visitors coming from Borgo Santo Spirito, which Bernini had in mind building the colonnade.
Located at the entrance of Vatican City, St. Peter’s Square is easily reachable from wherever you are in Rome. Closest metro station is Ottaviano on Metro Linea A (from Termini take direction Battistini), closest train station – Roma San Pietro on FR3 line. There are several buses and tram 19 which also stops nearby.
St. Peter’s Square is not only a monument of great architectural, cultural and historical value, it is also the entry way to one of the most important pilgrimage places for all the Catholics around the world – St.Peter’s Basilica, which, as a work of architecture, is regarded as the greatest building of its age. St. Peter’s is one of the four churches of Rome that hold the rank of Major Basilica. Besides Vatican Museums, St. Peter’s Square and St. Peter’s Basilica are the only entities on the territory of Vatican freely open for public visits.
St. Peter’s Square has an open access from the nearby streets, but the square itself is frequently closed off during the nights. It makes sense to combine the visit to the square with the entrance to the St.Peter’s Basilica, which is open every day from 7.00 to 19.00 between the months of April to September and from 7.00 to 18.00 during the period of October to March. The square can be closed or full of devotees on special occasions or audiences conducted by Pope.
Nice monument… Now where can I eat?
You can find endless restaurants and snack points around Vatican, whether you are in search for a quick bite or a hefty sit-down dinner after the tiring day of walking. If you are looking for a classic Roman trattoria, Osteria dell’Angelo is the restaurant run by Angelo Croce for over 50 years! Here you can find traditional Roman pasta dishes or sample rabbit and meat balls as a second course. For dinner you can also enjoy a fixed menu of 25 euro that includes antipasti, pasta and second dish – a truly great offer for such a central location! Just don’t forget to reserve a table beforehand! If you are in a mood for something more buzzing and trendy, try La Zanzara, which is open only for dinner and has a big gastronomia section and a long cocktail list. For vegetarians there is a 9 euro lunch buffet at Orto.
What is St. Peter’s Square up to today?
St. Peter’s Square is as beautiful today as it was for the last few centuries. During the morning hours or in the full sunlight or even just before twilight, when the lights are turned on – marvellous masterpiece is waiting for you to visit and to take memories and pictures back home!