See history, architecture, and politics combined in this central piazza.
Piazza Colonna is truly one of the social and political hubs of Rome. Situated on the path of Via del Corso, one of Rome’s most popular shopping streets, it’s a great place to go shopping, stop for a café, and take in the historical buildings and the ancient column to boot.
- Try to decipher the story depicted on Marcus Aurelius’ column – carved almost 2000 years ago.
- Admire the different styles of the historical buildings surrounding the piazza, one being the home of the Italian Prime Minister.
- Go shopping at the Art Nouveau Galleria Alberto Sordi. Don’t forget to look up at its colorful stained-glass ceiling.
What to See and Do
Here’s what you shouldn’t miss on your visit to this impressive piazza:
The Column of Marcus Aurelius
The centerpiece of the piazza and its main attraction is the monumental Roman victory column dedicated to the emperor Marcus Aurelius which has stood at this site since antiquity. It is a doric column consisting of 28 blocks of Carrara marble and decorated with a spiral relief. It’s modeled on the more famous Trajan’s column, completed 80 years before this one.
The spiral relief tells the story of Marcus Aurelius’ Marcomannic wars, waged during the second century CE, during which he triumphed over the Marcomanni, Quadi, and Sarmatians. The accounts of the two campaigns are separated in the middle of the column with a Victory.
Around three meters of the base of the column have been below ground since the 16th century when it was restored by orders of Pope Sixtus V. He also removed the statue of Marcus Aurelius at the top and replaced it with a bronze statue of St. Paul, which was more in line with Christian beliefs.
The fountain in the piazza was designed by architect Giacomo della Porta and constructed by Rocco Rossi between 1575 and 1577 by the commission of Pope Gregory XIII. It was one of many fountains built following the reconstruction of the Acque Vergine aqueduct, and its primary purpose was to provide clean drinking water to the local residents.
The fountain is made of pink marble originating from the island of Chios in Greece, and its oval basin is encircled by sixteen white marble lion heads. In the 19th century, two groups of dolphins, with their tails wrapped around seashells, were placed at either end.
The north side of the piazza is taken up by the Palazzo Chigi, a domineering palace begun in 1562 by Giacomo della Porta. Throughout its history, it has belonged to and housed important Italian families with papal connections, such as the Aldobrandini and the Chigi families.
In the early 20th century, it was bought by the Kingdom of Italy, and today it’s the seat of the Italian government and the official residence of the Prime Minister of Italy.
Galleria Alberto Sordi
On the east side of the piazza, across the popular shopping street Via del Corso, lies the magnificent Art Nouveau shopping arcade named the Galleria Alberto Sordi, an icon of Rome’s “belle époque.” It’s home to a collection of shops and cafes, but it’s worth having a walk through it alone just to see its stunning stained glass ceiling.
The west side of the piazza is occupied by the beautiful Wedekind palace, erected in the 17th century. Its main feature is the Portico di Veio, which consists of a colonnade of ancient Roman columns taken from the Etruscan city of Veii.
The palace originally hosted the offices of the viceregente, an administrative assistant of the Roman diocese. Later, it became the site of the papal Central Post Office before it was bought by a rich banker, Wedekind, from whom it gets its name. Today it’s the main office of ‘Il Tempo’, a daily Italian newspaper.
The Church of Santi Bartolomeo ed Alessandro dei Bergamaschi
The southwest corner of the square used to be occupied by the Ospedale dei Pazzarelli, Rome’s first insane asylum, which included a small church dedicated to Santa Maria della Pietà.
The asylum patients were relocated in the 1720s, and the church was given to the Archiconfraternità dei Bergamaschi, a historical association of Bergamo residents living in Rome. They rebuilt it and rededicated it to their own patron saints.
On the south side of the square lies Palazzo Ferrajoli, originally constructed in the 17th century but named after its 19th-century owners. It’s a little less impressive than most of the other palaces on the square, but it has a beautiful fountain in its courtyard, which, if the doors are open, you may be able to sneak a peek at.
Piazza Colonna is located in the heart of the bustling city center and is easy to get to either by public transport or on foot from all the main sites in Rome.
- Metro: Line A – Spagna or Barberini, then walk 12-13 minutes.
- Bus: Lines 62, 63, 83, 85, 100, 119, 160, 492, and 628 all stop nearby on Via del Corso.
- On Foot:
Pantheon (5 min.)
Piazza Venezia (9 min.)
Piazza di Spagna (11 min.)
Piazza del Popolo (15 min.)
Did You Know That: 4 Interesting Facts
- Marcus Aurelius’ column is actually hollow on the inside and contains a stairwell consisting of nearly 200 steps that lead up to a platform at the top. The stairwell is illuminated by narrow slits cut into the relief.
- All the various figure’s heads on the column were carved disproportionately large on purpose so that the viewer could better interpret their facial expressions.
- On the 20th of April 1770, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart gave a concert inside the Palazzo Chigi. One of the notable guests in attendance was Charles Edward Stuart, also known as ‘the Young Pretender’.
- Galleria Alberto Sordi was originally named Galleria Colonna, but it was renamed in 2003 after a famous Italian comedic actor who had died that year.
- Piazza Colonna has been a monumental open space since the times of Antiquity and was situated in the Campus Martius, a publicly owned area of ancient Rome.
- It’s thought that the square was situated between the temple of Hadrian and the temple of Marcus Aurelius (now the site of Palazzo Wedekind).
- In the year 193 CE, Marcus Aurelius’ column was completed and has stood there ever since.
- The piazza in its current rectangular form was constructed at the end of the 16th century by Pope Sixtus V. During this period, the fountain was also erected under the orders of Pope Gregory XIII.
- The beautiful buildings framing the piazza were erected between the 16th and 19th centuries. Each has its own style exemplifying the time period in which it was built.
- Today, the piazza continues to play an important role in Roman politics and society. It’s host to the seat of the Italian government and is also a popular destination among tourists and locals who come to marvel at the column and shop in the nearby streets.
Address: Piazza Colonna, Piazza Colonna , Roma, Italy · view larger map