Duration: 2.5 hours
Piazza del Popolo, Church of S. Maria del Popolo, Ara Pacis, Mausoleum of Augustus
I found Rome a city of bricks and left it a city of marble.
This tour will focus partly on Imperial Rome and partly on Renaissance Rome. We will begin our journey in Piazza del Popolo (the Square of the People), a magnificent square named after a chapel erected by pope Paschal II with public funds. The Church of Santa Maria del Popolo was then built on its remains and the entire square became “del Popolo” by extension.
The square was designed between the 16th and the 17th century. One of Rome’s thirteen Egyptian obelisks (1232-1220 BC), originally from the Circus Maximus, stands in the middle of the square, surrounded by wonderful fountains. This is the starting point of the three streets that form the so-called Trident or Three-Pronged Fork, namely Via del Corso, Via di Ripetta and Via del Babuino, diverging southward from the “twin churches” erected by pope Alexander VII in Piazza del Popolo (1675-1678). The Church of S. Maria del Popolo was built in the IX century on Nero’s burial site and then restored in the 17th by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. It houses such Caravaggio masterpieces as The Conversion of St. Paul and the Crucifixion of St. Peter. We will walk along via di Ripetta (which was named after the construction of the Ripetta port in 1704) to the magnificent Ara Pacis, the Altar of Augustan Peace (9 BC). It is the result of a reassembling of fragments and remains that started emerging from underground as early as 1568.
Opposite the Ara Pacis is what Strabo defined “the most notable of monuments”: the Mausoleum of Augustus. Its construction began in 28 BC, after Augustus’s victory on Cleopatra in 31 BC. It is inspired by Alexander the Great’s Tomb, which Octavian had had a chance to see during his stay in Alexandria.