What Is a Piazza and Where Are the Best Ones to See in Italy?

Public Squares in Italy

ascoli piceno photo
••• Piazza del Popolo, Ascoli Piceno. by Martha Bakerjian

A piazza is an open public square in Italy, usually surrounded by buildings. The Italian piazza is the center of public life. You'll often find a bar or cafe and a church or town hall on the main piazza. Many of Italy's towns and cities have beautiful main squares with decorative statues or fountains.

What's In a Word?

While the word piazza may be equivalent to a "public square" in English, it doesn't have to be square or even rectangular in shape.

In Lucca, the Piazza dell'Anfiteatro is an open space in a former amphitheater and takes on its oval shape.

One of the joys of touring Italy is to spend time doing nothing (far niente) at a cafe located in a historic piazza, just for the people watching, but be aware that infamous squares like Venice's Piazza San Marco, sitting at a table for a drink can be very expensive. If you do decide to take a table in a main square, you will probably want to spend some time enjoying the scene; you don't need to feel pressured to vacate your table once you've bought a drink.

While most bars and cafes are not usually as expensive as those in Saint Mark's Square, there is often a service charge for tables inside and a larger service charge for those outdoors. If there's live music or other entertainment, there may also be an added surcharge for that.

Events may be held in larger piazze, as well as weekly or daily markets.

Piazza delle erbe indicates a piazza used for a vegetable market (this may be historic, and not the current use of the piazza).

A piazza may be set with tables for a sagra, or festival where food will be served, cooked by locals with a passion for cooking. In summer outdoor music concerts are often held in a piazza, usually free of charge, and going to one is a great way to partake of Italian life and culture.

5 Top Piazze (Plural of Piazza) to See in Italy

  • Piazza Navona in Rome, once a Roman stadium, is home to three famous Baroque fountains. It's also a good place to try the Tartufo ice cream dessert.
  • Piazza della Signoria in Florence is the city's most famous square where you'll see the Palazzo Vecchio, the city hall.
  • Piazza del Campo in Siena, Tuscany, is another odd shaped "square," this one spreads out like a fan. It's the setting of one of Italy's most famous festivals, the horse race for the Palio of Siena.
  • Piazza del Popolo in the medieval town of Ascoli Piceno is said by many Italians to be the most beautiful piazza in Italy.
  • Prato della Valle in the northern Italian city of Padua, another oval piazza that was a Roman stadium, is the largest piazza in Italy.

Piazza Pronunciation:

pi AH tza

plural of piazza: piazze