In Italy, the piazza or public square is huge feature of daily life. With most town-dwellers living in apartments with little or no outside space, the piazza doubles as a backyard. It’s a place to chat with friends and neighbours, catch up on local gossip and participate in community events. It helps that most piazzas in Italy are gorgeous and, more often that not, feature renowned monuments, fountains, palaces and churches.
Here is our pick of the most beautiful and iconic piazzas in Italy:
Piazza San Marco, Venice
The vast expanse of St Mark’s Square is lined with elegant arcades and populated by hundreds of pigeons. At one end the immense and ornate Basilica San Marco rises majestically with its Byzantine domes and mosaics, and next to it Venice’s distinctive campanile or bell-tower. The piazza is best experienced during carnival when it is packed with people in ornate masks and costumes.
Piazza Navona, Rome
Built on top of Domitian’s ancient stadium, Piazza Navona is a Baroque splendour, capped by Bernini’s spectacular ‘Fountain of the Four Rivers’ which takes pride of place in the centre of the square. One of the best spots in Rome for people-watching, pull up a chair at one of the many pavement cafés and watch the world go by.
Piazza della Signoria, Florence
As home to the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence’s town hall, and a gateway to the Uffizi Gallery, the Piazza della Signoria has historically played a large part in the day-to-day life of the city. Once home to Michelangelo’s statue of David (the original is now found in the Accademia and a copy stands in its place) the square also boasts the beautiful Loggia dei Lanzi with its amazing Renaissance sculptures.
Piazza del Plebiscito, Naples
Naples’ 19th century, 25,000 sqm showstopper is home to the Palazzo Reale, former Bourbon royal residence as well as the neoclassic facsimile of Rome’s Pantheon the Basilica of San Francesco di Paola. The piazza’s size and sweeping curved colonnades make it a natural arena for open-air concerts in the summer months.
Piazza San Pietro, Vatican City
Bernini’s design for a piazza meant to showcase the most important church in the Catholic religion cleverly draws the eye towards the façade of the basilica and upwards to Michelangelo’s heavenly dome. The colonnades stretch around the oval piazza to form arms to welcomes visitors both into the church and into the faith.
Piazza del Duomo, Milan
The intricate gothic architecture of Milan’s spectacular cathedral is the focus of this piazza which marks the centre of the city. On one side stands the arched entrance to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, the world’s oldest active shopping arcade, and at the opposite end of the square an equestrian statue of King Victor Emmnuel II himself, the first king of unified Italy.
Piazza del Campo, Siena
Siena’s shell-shaped central square is dominated by the imposing Palazzo Pubblico, the town hall, and its tower, the Torre del Mangia and is flanked by stunning noble palaces. The square is best known for the Palio di Siena, the biannual medieval horse race which sees ten horses and jockeys, representing the historic neighbourhoods or contrade of the city, race frantically around the piazza.
Piazza dei Miracoli, Pisa
Pisa’s ‘Field of Miracles’ is home to the world-famous Leaning Tower, as well as the city’s wonderful cathedral, baptistry and monumental cemetery. The buildings are interspersed with lush green lawns forming a striking contrast of green against the bright white Pisan Romanesque architecture. In 1987 the piazza and its monuments were named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Prato delle Valle, Padua
Padua’s elliptical Prato delle Valle spans 90,000 sqm making it the largest piazza in Italy. The grassy central section is ringed by a small canal lined with 78 statues of the town’s prominent historical figures and the piazza is surrounded by attractive buildings including the notable Basilica di Santa Giustina.
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