Piazza Navona Rome

Piazza Navona is easily the most beautiful square in Rome, with a number of extraordinary tourist attractions like Bernini‘s Fountain of the Four Rivers and the Church of Sant’Agnese in Agone. During the Christmas period the atmosphere gets a little extra, thanks to the colorful stalls, selling candy.

Piazza Navona Rome

History and description

Piazza Navona Rome
Piazza Navona, seen from the Palazzo Braschi

It started out as an amphitheater, built by the Emperor Nero and later transformed by Domitius into the Circus Agonis, which explains its rectangular shape. There was space for more than 30 thousand spectators.

Even though it had already lost much of its luster by the end of the Roman Empire, even during the Middle Ages there were still games being held.

During the late middle ages, the ramshackle huts that had started populating the square gradually disappeared and the first palazzi were constructed. At the time it was still called Platea Agona, which later changed into Piazza Navona.

In the 15th century, Sixtus V had bricks laid on the square and in the following century Gregorius XIII Boncompagni commissioned the first two fountains on Piazza Navona.

The fountain on the south side was initially called Fontana del Tritone, but after an intervention by Bernini this came to be the Fontana del Moro. In 1651 Bernini also created the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers), one of the most beautiful fountains in Rome.

Fountain of Neptune, Piazza Navona, Rome
Fountain of Neptune

The fountain on the north end of Piazza Navona was designed by Antonio della Bitta and is called the Fontana di Nettuno (Fountain of Neptune).

In the 17th century the Pamphilj family of Pope Innocent X ordered the destruction of some palazzi along Navona Square in order to turn them into one big building. The architect of this new palazzo was Carlo Maderno.

The Collegio Innocenziano and the Chiesa di Sant’Agnese in Agone were commissioned to Borromini, although it was Bernini who completed the church.

For years there was a tradition of flooding Piazza Navona, in order to turn it into one giant bathtub for the Romans.

In the days leading up to the holiday period, Piazza Navona is the place in Rome to buy candy and other Christmas paraphernalia, while during the rest of the year street artists make caricatures of tourists who are willing to pay.

Dan Brown has his irritating protagonist almost drowned in one of the shallow fountains in Piazza Navona. How this could have happened in a square where at any moment of the day hundreds of people (and at least a couple of carabinieri) are walking around is a bigger miracle than any saint could have dreamed up.

Piazza Navona – Rome

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