Piazza Navona


Rome's marvellous collection of piazzas make great resting places on your walks around Rome, and beautifully present the city's Baroque face.

Piazza Navona is a city square in Rome. It follows the plan of an ancient Roman circus, the 1st century Stadium of Domitian, where the Romans came to watch the agones ("games"): It was known as 'Circus Agonalis' (competition arena). It is believed that over time the name changed to 'in agone' to 'navone' and eventually to 'navona'.

Defined as a public space in the last years of 15th century, when the city market was transferred to it from the Campidoglio, the Piazza Navona is now the pride of Baroque Roman art history. It features sculptural and architectural creations by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, whose famous Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers, 1651) stands in the center; by Francesco Borromini and Girolamo Rainaldi, who designed the church of Sant'Agnese in Agone; and by Pietro da Cortona, who painted the galleria in the Pamphilj palace.

The market was again moved in 1869 to the Campo de' Fiori. The piazza long hosted theatrical shows and horse races. From 1652 until 1866, when the festival was suppressed, it was flooded on every August Saturday and Sunday for elaborate celebrations of the Pamphilj family.

Piazza Navona contains two additional fountains, sculpted by Giacomo della Porta: the Fontana di Nettuno (1574), located at the northern area of the piazza; and the Fontana del Moro (1576), located at the southern end.

 If you leave the piazza at the south end going west, you'll come to another piazza which is the home of Pasquino, one of Rome's "taking" statues. It was on this statue that many satirical comments were attached when it was not safe to talk openly. In the dead of night a political commentator would nefariously attach some nasty ironic comment that would be found in the morning and its content would spread around the whole city.

Piazza Navona is an extremely lively place with open air cafes around it. During the summer there are numerous artists who draw or paint members of the public for a fee. The place is crowded each day and there are often buskers and sometimes mimes to entertain. At Christmas time the piazza is filled with stalls selling figurines of all sizes and forms for cribs, so well into a frozen December night you can come here and see all the lights of the stalls and perhaps think about making your own crib. It's a child's delight.