Since it’s beginning in the 1st century A.D., Piazza Navona has been a hot spot for culture and entertainment in the historic center of Rome. It is one of the prettiest piazzas in Rome, in part because of the fountains and the beautiful curved front and bell towers of the church of St. Agnes in Agony.
Like so many places in Rome, one place was built on top of another. Piazza Navona was originally the Stadium of Domitian, but was paved over in the 15th century and the Piazza Navona was created. You can now tour the remains of the stadium underground.
Once the place for chariot races and other competitive games, in the 15th century it was filled with water and naval battles and aquatic games were staged there. I find it interesting and maybe even coincidental that there are not one, but three fountains there – water is still an important feature of Piazza Navona.
The most famous fountain is Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers built in front of the church, St. Agnes in Agony. On one of my visits there with an Ask a Local guide, I was told that Bernini positioned the figure of a cowering Rio de la Plata in the fountain, as if fearing the facade of the church of Sant’Agnese designed by his rival Borromini, however the fountain was completed several years before Borromini began work on the church. Apparently this is a popular legend told by tour guides.
Piazza Navona is also a great people – watching spot – you can have your portrait sketched, watch jugglers, bubble blowers, and street musicians. It’s also a great place to drop a lot of euros, but you also get a ringside seat at one of the most entertaining shows on earth.
For information on tours to see the underground Stadium of Domitian.
All material copyright PennySadler 2013