Duane McLaughlin

Piazza di Pietra: Everything You Need to Know

A comprehensive guide to Piazza di Pietra, delving into its history, significance, and visitor information.

Piazza di Pietra in Rome


Did you know that Piazza di Pietra, one of the most charming squares in Rome, was once the site of a magnificent temple dedicated to Emperor Hadrian? This temple, built in 145 AD by Hadrian's adopted son and successor Antoninus Pius, still stands today as a testimony of the ancient glory of Rome. In this article, we will explore the origins, historical significance, lesser-known stories, intriguing facts and dark histories of this fascinating place.

Historical Context

Piazza di Pietra, which means "Square of Stone", owes its name to the presence of the remains of the ancient Hadrianeum, a large temple that occupied the center of an arcaded square. The temple was erected in honor of Emperor Hadrian, who ruled from 117 to 138 AD and is considered one of the most enlightened and cosmopolitan rulers of ancient Rome. Hadrian is famous for his extensive travels across the empire, his patronage of arts and culture, his love for Greek civilization and his monumental building projects, such as the Pantheon and the wall that bears his name in Britain.

The temple was designed by the architect Apollodorus of Damascus, who also worked on the Pantheon and the Trajan's Forum. It had a rectangular shape with a portico of four columns on the front and eleven on each side. The columns were made of Proconnesian marble from Turkey, which was also used for the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. The temple was richly decorated with sculptures and reliefs depicting scenes from Hadrian's life and achievements. The interior housed a colossal statue of Hadrian in military attire, flanked by statues of Roma and Minerva.

The temple was one of the most impressive monuments in ancient Rome, but it suffered from several damages and transformations over time. In the 5th century AD, it was converted into a fortress by Ricimer, a powerful general who ruled Rome behind the scenes. In the 8th century AD, it was used as a papal residence by Pope Stephen III. In the 10th century AD, it was occupied by the Crescentii family, who controlled much of Rome during the Middle Ages. In the 14th century AD, it was partially demolished by Cola di Rienzo, a popular leader who tried to restore the Roman Republic. In the 15th century AD, it was incorporated into a palace by Cardinal Adriano Castellesi, who gave it its current name.

In 1696, Pope Innocent XII ordered the demolition of most of the temple to make room for a new customs house. Only eleven columns and part of the cella (the inner chamber) were spared and incorporated into the new building. The customs house was later used as a stock exchange and is now home to a conference center. The square around the temple became a popular meeting place for locals and visitors alike, who enjoy its lively atmosphere and its stunning view of the ancient columns.

Piazza di Pietra is not only a historical site, but also a cultural one. It has been featured in several works of art and literature, such as Giorgio de Chirico's paintings, Federico Fellini's movies and Alberto Moravia's novels. It has also hosted various events and exhibitions, such as light shows, concerts and fashion shows. It is one of the most beloved places in Rome, where history and modernity coexist in harmony.

Architectural Features

The Piazza di Pietra is a charming square in the historic center of Rome, near the Via del Corso and the Piazza Colonna. Its name comes from the stones of the ancient Hadrianeum, a temple dedicated to Emperor Hadrian by his son and successor Antoninus Pius in 145 AD. The temple was built in the middle of an arcaded square, and its facade faced the current Via del Corso.

Today, only 11 huge Corinthian columns and a part of the cella (the inner chamber) of the temple remain, overlooking the piazza. The columns are over 48 feet high and support the original architrave (the beam that rests on the columns). The foundation of the temple is made of Proconnesian marble from Turkey, which was also used for the Hagia Sophia. The depth of the original street level, which was 16 feet lower than today, can be seen by the exposed base of the columns. The temple was restored by UNESCO and now houses the Rome Stock Exchange.

The piazza is also home to the noble palace Ferrini Cini, designed by Onorio Longhi at the beginning of the 17th century and finished by Ferdinando Fuga in 1743. The palace has a Baroque facade with a curved balcony and a coat of arms. The piazza becomes more evocative in the evening with a skillful play of lights, sounds and images that illuminate the colonnade of the Temple of Hadrian.

Iconic Buildings

The Temple of Hadrian is undoubtedly the most iconic building in the Piazza di Pietra. It is one of the best preserved examples of ancient Roman architecture in the city, and a testimony of the imperial cult that honored Hadrian as a god after his death. The temple was originally decorated with statues and reliefs depicting scenes from Hadrian's life and achievements, such as his travels, his building projects, and his military campaigns. Some of these sculptures are now displayed in the nearby Capitoline Museums.

The Ferrini Cini Palace is another notable building in the piazza. It was built for Cardinal Alessandro Cesarini, who owned several properties in the area. The palace has a rich history, having hosted several prominent guests, such as Pope Clement XI, King Charles III of Spain, and Napoleon Bonaparte. The palace also has a secret passage that connects it to the Church of San Ignazio, where Cardinal Cesarini was buried.

Tips and Recommendations

If you want to visit the Piazza di Pietra and admire its architectural beauty, here are some tips and recommendations:


The Piazza di Pietra is one of Rome's hidden gems that offers a glimpse into its ancient and modern history. It is a place where you can admire stunning architecture, relax in a lively atmosphere, and discover more about Rome's fascinating past. Whether you visit it during the day or at night, you will surely be enchanted by its charm and beauty.