Piazza Navona

Breathtaking view of Piazza Navona, Rome's iconic square adorned with Baroque splendor, lively ambiance, and cultural richness.

If you have ever watched the movies Roman Holiday, The Talented Mr. Ripley, or Angels and Demons then the Piazza Navona will be familiar to you. Steeped in history and surrounded by magnificent Baroque architecture, this iconic square is a must-visit for anyone exploring the Eternal City.

History of Piazza Navona

In the 1st century AD, builders constructed Piazza Navona as the Stadium of Domitian, shaping its rich history. He wanted to build the stadium to bring Greek-style games to Rome. Apparently, the Romans thought the games immoral and preferred the horrific gore of the Colosseum. I’ll leave you to gather your own conclusions about the Roman population from that statement.

In the 15th century, the piazza served as the local market where vendors sold fresh fruits and vegetables. This quickly became a daily market for produce, meats and other goods.

In 1653, Pope Innocent X and his sister-in-law, Donna Olimpia (whose story unfolds later), made the decision to fill the square’s center with water by closing the drainage of the three fountains. For two centuries this was a place where Romans could find relief from the incredibly hot summers of the city and a beautiful place to visit during walks. Pope Pius IX decided to put an end to fun and frivolity in 1866.

Today, the square preserves the shape and dimensions of the ancient Roman stadium, making it a unique and historically significant site. Over the centuries, Piazza Navona has undergone several transformations, eventually becoming the lively square we see today.

One of Rome’s Most Beautiful Piazzas

I have to agree that Piazza Navona is one of Rome’s most beautiful piazzas. I make a point to stop into this square when I am in Rome. The Fountain of the Four Rivers, crafted by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, takes center stage as the stunning centerpiece of this beautiful area. Inaugurated in 1651, the fountain is an incredible work of art that people come from all over the world to see. The four rivers shown are the Nile, the Gange, the Danube, and the Rio de la Plata. During the summer you will see kids leaning over into the water and splashing around and parents milling about.

There also two other fountains are are worth a look. The fountain of Neptune and the Fontana del Moro, both masterpieces of Giacomo della Porta, are in the piazza and are stunning.

Fontana del Nettuno is located at the northern end of the piazza. In 1574, under Pope Gregory III’s tenure, builders constructed the fountain with plans for tritons and large masks, which were never realized. After Italy’s unification in 1873, sculptors added additional sculptures. Antonio della Bitta contributed groups depicting Neptune battling a giant squid, and Gregorio Zappalà crafted sea horses, dolphins, and cherubs.

Fontana del Moro is at the southern end of the piazza facing the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj. Constructed in the 16th century, Pope Gregory III commissioned the fountain during the restoration of the Aqua Virgo aqueduct. The original fountain featured marble tritons, dragons, and masks intricately carved by artists of the 16th century. Later Pope Innocent X placed the famous sculptor Bernini in charge of restoring the fountain and placed a pool similar to the original design as well as a statue in the middle made by Giannantonio Mari following a design by Bernini.

Captivating scene of Piazza Navona, a Roman gem surrounded by Baroque elegance and a vibrant cultural atmosphere.

Atmosphere and Entertainment

Piazza Navona is not just a feast for the eyes; it’s a hub of energy and activity. Street performers, artists, and musicians contribute to the vibrant atmosphere, creating an immersive experience for visitors. Grab a gelato, take a leisurely stroll, and immerse yourself in the lively ambiance that defines this Roman gem.

Don’t miss some of the lovely cafes that offer a quick snack or an espresso for a pick me up during the day. These tend to be very touristy so I wouldn’t eat a meal here, but it is quite nice for a brief stop and gives you a few minutes in the shade of an umbrella to enjoy the view.

Must-Visit Attractions in the Piazza Navona

Apart from the iconic fountains, Piazza Navona is home to other noteworthy attractions. The Sant’Agnese in Agone church is adorned with stunning artwork by Caravaggio, Raphael, and Bernini making this worth a visit. The Palazzo Pamphilj, where the most powerful woman in 17-century Rome, Donna Olimpia, used to live. It now houses the Brazilian Embassy and is worth checking out.

Make the Most of Your Visit

  • Timing is Everything: Visit early in the morning or late in the evening to avoid the crowds.
  • Explore Surrounding Streets: Wander through the narrow alleys to discover charming cafes and boutique shops.
  • Photography Tips: Capture the essence of Piazza Navona during the golden hour for stunning photographs.

Conclusion

Piazza Navona stands as a testament to Rome’s timeless allure, where history, art, and culture converge in a harmonious blend. As you explore its cobblestone streets and bask in the beauty of its fountains and architecture, you’ll find yourself transported to a bygone era. Make Piazza Navona a priority on your Rome itinerary!

Helpful Information

Best Time to Visit: Anytime is a good time!

Important Information

Gallery

Kristal Ham

Hi fellow nomads!

Traveler and Photographer

My name is Kristal and I am so happy to have you visit my site! 

I hope that the travel guides, fun facts, and photography you find here will inspire you to explore new places!

Kristal

My Personal Favorites

Next Destination

Explore

Ultimate Guide to Paris

Vermont Towns to Visit in the Fall

Things to Know Before Visiting Venice

Subscribe

stay informed!