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The Secret of People Square in Rome

Few are aware of a particular acoustic effect found in People Square. In this square, one of the most famous in Rome, two people can easily talk from one side of the square to the other without necessarily shouting. Lie or reality? Let’s see in detail.

View of Piazza del Popolo in Rome

Piazza del Popolo is one of the most famous squares in Rome, at the foot of the Pincio, it was designed at the end of the 18th century by the architect Giuseppe Valadier.
Today it is a large pedestrian area of about 16,000 m², a place for important public events: its capacity allows it to accommodate up to 65,000 people.

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In one of the two hemicycles of the square, on the opposite side of the slope and terrace of the Pincio, in front of the Egyptian obelisk, there is a very long wall, in the center of which there is a large fountain (the fountain of Neptune). Stand in the center of the wall (the one opposite the Pincio), where the fountain is located, while the other person will stand at the corner of the end. Speak facing the wall, and be careful that no one is leaning on it: it will seem to chat a few centimeters away.

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How is it possible this effect that children (and not only) like so much? Thanks to the concave shape of the wall. The echo that is given by the semi-circularity of the wall allows us to communicate without even having to raise our voices. Take advantage of the 100 meters of the exedra of the wall (but even less is enough), placing yourself at the fountain in the center of this, the other person will have to speak to the corner stone at the end and will have no problems making himself understood.

Only by whispering about one of its extreme angles, another person, if placed in the middle of the hemicycle or even at the other end (the two ends of the wall are marked in red in the reference photo), will be able to hear you despite the great shouting of tourists and passers-by. The phenomenon in Rome is known as the “echo” of Piazza del Popolo, even if it is a “conduction” and not a sound reflection.

The square is an excellent example of architectural “stratification”, due to the continuous succession of popes that involved modifications and reworking of the building and road works. Three churches overlook the square.

The oldest is the basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo, next to the door of the same name. It was erected (on the tomb of the Domizi where Nero was buried) in the 11th century by Pope Paschal II, but was later rebuilt under Pope Sixtus IV.

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