Piazza del Popolo is now the core of the city of Ravenna. Built during the late XIII century, when the Da Polenta family was in control of the city.
In the early days, this huge open space was flanked by the Padenna, a water canal that crossed the city and has since then been deviated out of the city to avoid the floods which used to hit Ravenna.
Its original appearance was quite different to its actual one, and the square was transformed under the dominion of the Venetians.The square clearly recalls St. Mark’s Square in Venice, and following its example in 1483 two columns were erected delimiting its borders from the canal, exactly as in Venice where the columns directly faces Canal Grande.
Crowning these two columns there was once the statue of Saint Mark’s Lion and the statue of Saint Apollinaris; the lion disappeared when in 1509 Ravenna fell under the control of the Papal State and Pope Julius II cancelled every reminder of the Venetians. The statue of Saint Vitalis from Ravenna took its place, who was tortured in Bologna.
Piazza del Popolo is surrounded by important buildings. One of the first palazzi that we find coming from the railway station is the former seat of Banca Nazionale del Lavoro, a building designed by Camillo Morigia. An imposing vault unites the palazzo to the prefecture. Standing exactly in the middle of the vaults structure, it’s possible to see Dante’s Tomb, designed as well by Camillo Morigia.
On the right-hand of the square we find Palazzo dei Rasponi del Sale, currently the seat of a bank and recently restored. Closing the square’s perspective the Palazzo Comunale, characterized by its richly crenellated façade and where civil marriages and the city council meetings take place.
This palazzo was built in 1681 over the remains of the previous building, belonging to the Da Polenta’s family. Only a few architectural traces are left from the original building, among them the entrance’s steps, probably dating from the first years of the 15th century, the vault in front of the steps and the pine cone. The water canal used to flow between the ancient Palazzo dei Da Polenta and the 2 columns.
Piazza del Popolo square was first dedicated to Vittorio Emanuele II, and its name changed after the establishment of the Republic of Italy in 1946; Ravenna was the city in Italy where the maximum of votes in favour of the establishment of the republic was found: 80% of the population in Ravenna were in favour.
Nowadays, the square is the stage of many manifestations and public events.