See beautiful Bernini fountains in this Baroque square.
Piazza Barberini is often overlooked or passed through quickly on the way to more famous attractions, but it’s worth spending a moment to admire the piazza itself. The piazza is known for its two famous Bernini fountains but it’s also home to an incredible museum.
- Admire Bernini’s fountains – masterpieces of the Baroque.
- Visit the National Gallery of Antique Art housed inside the ornate Barberini Palace.
- Go for an aperitivo before catching a screening at the Multisala Barberini.
What to see and do
Here’s what you shouldn’t miss on your visit to this beautiful piazza:
Fontana del Tritone
The square’s centerpiece is the ornate baroque fountain made by renowned sculptor, Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Commissioned by Pope Urban VIII (of the Barberini family), this fountain was considered unique from others of the same period because it was constructed out of travertine (a type of limestone) rather than the more typical marble.
Four dolphins form the base of the fountain. They’re holding up the enormous shell upon which sits the merman Triton, demigod of the sea, who’s blowing a stream of water out of a conch straight up into the air. At the base of Triton’s shell is placed Urban VIII’s papal crest.
Fontana delle Api
On a corner of the piazza, at the intersection with via Veneto, lies another Bernini masterpiece: the Fountain of the Bees. This was the last work that Bernini designed for Pope Urban VIII, who died shortly afterward.
This extra fountain, featuring a large shell and three bees spouting water, was built for a practical purpose: to allow people to easily fill their jars with water – unlike the Triton Fountain which is purely ornamental. The bees are a heraldic symbol of the Barberini family.
Palazzo Barberini is an ornate Baroque palace designed for Pope Urban VIII (formerly known as Maffeo Barberini) by three famous architects: Carlo Maderno, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, and Francesco Borromini. The square was named after this impressive palace, and the even more impressive family it belonged to.
Today, the palace is home to the National Gallery of Antique Art and showcases masterpieces by Raphael, Caravaggio, and Tintoretto, amongst many others. One of the palaces’ defining features is the elaborate frescoed ceiling of the Grand Salon painted by Pietro da Cortona. It represents the spiritual and political power of the vast Barberini family.
Recently opened to the public is the Barberini Mithraeum, an underground temple to the God Mithras, discovered by chance underneath the Palazzo Barberini grounds during renovation works in 1936.
Mithra was a god of Persian origins, who became popular amongst Roman men during the 2cd and 3rd centuries CE. Religious ceremonies would take place in underground temples.
The temple’s main draw is a large fresco of Mithras killing a bull (a common theme in Mithraism), and another interesting feature is that elements of the main altar are still identifiable today. Visits are by guided tour only and must be booked in advance.
Shopping and Nightlife
The square is at its loveliest in the early evening or at night when the fountains are lit up and there’s less traffic passing by. It’s a great place to grab dinner or have an aperitivo in one of the nearby bars or restaurants after a long day of sightseeing.
Located right on the piazza is the Multisala Barberini, a historic cinema from the 1930s originally built by director Roberto Rosselini’s father, which screens blockbusters and, occasionally, filmed opera performances. It’s a favorite of tourists and ex-pats as it sometimes screens films in their original language.
For fans of shopping, the piazza is connected to Via del Tritone (named after the Bernini fountain), the main road that links the square to Via del Corso. Both roads are great for shopping, and Via del Tritone is even home to ‘La Rinascente’, Rome’s luxury shopping mall.
Piazza Barberini is located in the heart of Rome and is easily accessible by public transport or on foot from other hotspots in the center. Both the metro and a number of bus lines have stops in or near the busy square.
Metro: Line A – Barberini
Bus: Lines 52, 53, 61, 62, 63, 80, 83, 85, 100, 492, 590
On Foot: Piazza di Spagna (9 min.)
Trevi Fountain (8 min.)
Pantheon (16 min.)
Piazza Venezia (17 min.)
Did you know that: (4 Interesting Facts!)
- Up until the 18th century, Piazza Barberini was used as a site to display unknown human bodies for the purpose of public identification.
- Hans Christian Andersen, the author of The Little Mermaid, lived near Piazza Barberini during his travels to Rome and was greatly impressed by the Triton Fountain.
- In 1880, the Fontana delle Api was removed from its original location and reconstructed on a different corner of the piazza years later. Because of this, parts went missing and the inscription was incorrectly restored.
- Originally, there was a large gateway designed by Pietro da Cortona connecting Palazzo Barberini to the piazza but it was demolished to make way for a new road.
- The area on which the piazza now lies started filling with villas and gardens during the 16th century. The laying of the Strada Felice (today known as via Sistina) helped transform the area into an urban space.
- When Pope Urban VIII, of the powerful and influential Barberini family, erected Palazzo Barberini there in 1625 the piazza was named after it.
- The pope also commissioned the piazza’s two famous Bernini fountains. Triton fountain was constructed in 1643, and the Fountain of the Bees in 1644.
- From 1633 to 1822 the piazza was home to an ancient obelisk before it got moved to the Villa Medici.
- In the late 19th century most of the surrounding villas were replaced by new apartment buildings.
- During the last decade of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th, two new big roads were opened giving the piazza a more modern appearance.
- Today, the piazza is a busy crossroads for Roman traffic. Locals and tourists alike hang out there to meet up, go for a drink, or catch a movie.
Address: Piazza Barberini, Piazza Barberini , 00187 Roma, Italy · view larger map