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For centuries Piazza del Popolo was the first glimpse most travelers got of Rome, as it lies directly inside the city’s northern gate, the Porta del Popolo. It Grand Tourists were unlucky enough to arrive during Carnival time, they were likely to witness condemned criminals being tortured for the entertainment of the populace. The piazza was given its present oval form by neoclassical architect Giuseppe Valadier in the early nineteenth century. The obelisk in the centre was taken from Egypt by Augustus and stood in the Circus Maximus until 1589, when it was moved to its present site by Pope Sixtus V. It appears to stand at the apex of a perfect triangle formed by Via di Ripetta, Via del Corso and Via del Babuino, although this is an illusion. The churches on either side of Via del Corso, Santa Maria Di Monte Santo, appear to be twins but are actually different sizes. Carlo Rainaldi , who designed them in the 1660s, made them and the adjacent street angles appear symmetrical by giving one an oval dome, and the other a round one. The Piazza’s greatest monument, thought, is the church of Santa Maria del Popolo, begun in 1472. In the piazza itself are the fashionable cafes Rosati and Canova.

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