There are two identical churches and an obelisk: this is the Piazza del Popolo, the apex of the so-called trident because from here originate three long and straight street: via del Babuino, where are many antique shops, which leads to Piazza di Spagna (flanked by via Margutta, a street famous for its painters): via di Ripetta and the very busy via del Corso (Stendhal defined it as “the most beautiful of the world”).
Through the Porta del Popolo with its triumphal arch opening into the Aurelian walls, you get the impression, as you enter the square, that you are on the threshold of the most scenographic entrance to Rome. The square slowly took its present shape through the centuries. Pope Sixtus V in 1589 had the obelisk erected at the centre. A century later Pope Alexander VII commissioned Rainaldl to build the twin symmetrical churches of Santa Maria di Monte-santo and Santa Maria del Miracoli (of the Miracles). As the space on the left was narrower, Rainaldi built a circular dome (for Santa Maria dei Miracoli) and an oval dome for the other church. But they seem the same when you look at them from the square. The Piazza del Popolo got its larger oval shape in the 19th century thanks to the gifted architect Giuseppe Valadier, creator of the splendid gardens of the Pincio (which are slightly higher compared to the square).