Although Piazza San Pietro is technically part of the Vatican, an independent state, informally it can be included among the attractions of Rome, as one of the most beautiful squares in the Eternal City.
The Saint Peter’s Square, located in front of the Saint Peter’s Basilica dedicated to the homonymous saint, an apostle of Jesus and the first Catholic Pope, is the main meeting point for the Catholic faithful from all over the world.
At the beginning of the 16th century, the rectangular square was unpaved, with a difference in height of about 10 meters between the foot of the staircase leading to the basilica and the front of the esplanade that reached the Tiber River.
During the 15th century, Pope Alexander VI opened the first new straight road of Rome, the current Via della Conciliazione, between Ponte Sant’Angelo and the gate of the Vatican Palace. Around this axis, the Borgo, the 14th historic district of Rome, was reorganized into a mix of public housing and cardinal palaces designed by the most important architects of the time.
During the pontificate of Julius II, it was decided to completely rebuild the St. Peter’s Basilica. Throughout the 16th century, the square was not affected by the work of reconstruction.
Around the middle of the 16th century, Pope Pius IV expanded the square on both sides. In 1586, the architect Domenico Fontana, following the order given by Pope Sixtus V, transported the ancient Egyptian obelisk in front of the basilica.
The most important redesign of the square was made by the Italian architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini between 1656 and 1667, during the pontificate of Pope Alexander VII.
The square is composed from two different areas. The first area, close to the Saint Peter’s Basilica, is a trapezoid, delimited on the sides by two straight convergent buildings. The second area is elliptical and is surrounded by the two hemicycles of a four-row colonnade.
Piazza San Pietro is 320 meters deep and has a diameter of about 240 meters. The square is surrounded by 284 columns, set out in rows of four, and 88 pilasters. Above the columns, there are 140 statues of saints, about 3 meters high.
On either side of the obelisk, there are two fountains, the first built by Carlo Maderno in 1614, and the second by Bernini in 1675.
HOW TO GET THERE
The closest Metro station is Ottaviano, about 700 meters away, on the Line A. The closest bus stop is Cavalleggeri/S. Pietro, about 250 meters away, on the bus lines 34, 46, 98, 190F, 881, 916, 916F and 982.
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