Marvel at this stunning centrepoint of the Roman Catholic Church, which is also the perfect place to see a spectacular sunset.
Designed by Baroque master Gian Lorenzo Bernini back in the mid-17th century, the captivating Piazza San Pietro was made to be a space where legions of Catholic worshippers could come, look up to the balcony of the Vatican Palace, and to listen to their spiritual leader the Pope. And in that spirit, it is here where pilgrims still flock every Easter to see the Pope as he delivers his seasonal message – and indeed where many come all year round for a glimpse of this stunning and sacred spot.
You can approach the Piazza by walking up the Via della Conciliazione, as that way you’ll get to see head on the towering dome of St. Peter’s Basilica as you draw closer to the square. Then when you finally emerge onto St. Peter’s Square, you will find yourself right in the heart of the Vatican City, the world’s smallest state.
At the centre of the square you’ll see the 25-metre-tall Egyptian obelisk made from red granite, said to have been brought by Caligula from Alexandria in 37 AD to the Circus of Nero – the dark theatre where crucifixions were held, which once stood on this spot. This space has sacred importance. It was here where St. Peter was killed by the Romans, as depicted in a dramatic painting by Caravaggio on display in the Cerasi Chapel.
Across the piazza, you’ll see the famous tall colonnades, each of them decorated with statues of religious icons such as St. John the Baptist and Christ the Redeemer. To the right of the steps that lead up to the basilica, you’ll find the statue of St. Peter sculpted by Giuseppe De Fabris, as well as St. Paul on the other side.
Located in central Rome, you can make your way on foot to St. Peter’s Square. Head over the Tiber and walk up Via della Conciliazione, and you’ll be there. The nearest Metro train station is also just a short walk away on Via Ottaviano.