Located just behind Palazzo Comunale, the small PIAZZA DELL’AQUILA (lit. eagle square) owes its peculiar name to the marble eagle overlooking the city from the column in the centre of square.
Its “real” name is Piazza XX Settembre (but nobody calls it like that!), in memory of the Breach of Porta Pia and the annexation of Rome to the Kingdom of Italy (September 20th, 1870).
Because of the many commercial activities taking place here (see focus), in the past this place was called Piazza della Legna (lit. Wood square), Piazza del Vino e delle Granelle (lit. Wine and Grains square) and Foro Asinario (lit. Donkey forum) – before finally becoming “Piazza dell’Aquila” in 1673, with the transfer of the sculpture previously located in Piazza del Popolo.
The statue was originally placed here in 1603 to honour cardinal legateBonoficio Gaetani as a sign of gratitude for his commitment to a new municipal order and the revival of the port activity of the city.
The central element of the square is still the column with the eagle: the pink marble base on which the column still rests today is the same one that had supported the monumental Roman statue of Hercules Orario – also known as conchincollo – for centuries.
The long side of the square is occupied by the façade of a palace, the 17th-century residence of the Pasolini family, an ancient patrician family that gave birth to prominent scholars, writers and political figures. The property includes the entire block and to the rear is a centuries-old park, one of the largest and oldest private gardens in the city.
On the opposite side, th square is delimited by the back of Palazzo Comunale, rebuilt from the 16th century onwards. A big vault, frescoed by Gaetano Savini in 1873, connects it with Piazza del Popolo.