Originally built in the 15th century, the Baroque style Piazza Navona boasts of flamboyant fountains, imposing buildings and a lively cast of artists, magicians and travellers. Regarded as one of the most charming and popular showcase squares in Rome, its grand attractions include Bernini’s Fountains designed during the papacy of Gregory XIII, the imposing Church of Sant’Agnese, and not to mention the powerful personifications of the rivers Nile, Ganges, Danube and Plate.
Paved over the historic Stadio di Domiziano, the square was once the open space of a stadium that hosted various athletic contests. Known as the Stadium of Domitian, Navona was, in fact, Rome’s first permanent venue for gladiatorial combats and foot races.
In the post-imperial era, however, the stadium fell into disuse due to the economic and political crisis. Over the time, the arena served as housing for the poor and emerged as a common meeting place. Soon after, it was called in Navone (big ship) and was eventually shortened to Navona to be defined as a public space.
Today, the square boasts of a lively and delightful atmosphere complemented by several baroque architecture and artworks, including three lavish fountains: Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, Fontana del Moro and Fontana del Nettuno.
While all three of them are arguably the most beautiful parts of Piazza Navona, it is the Fontana Dei Quattro Fiumi or the Four Rivers Fountain that is considered to be the most complex of all. Mastercrafted by Bernini in the early 1650s, it is an epitome of four rivers imperative to Christianity: the Nile, the Ganges, the Danube, and the Rio de la Plata, each distinguished by the unique design. In fact, there’s an obelisk measuring 52 ft (16 m) in the middle of the fountain, which had originally been part of the Circus of Maxentius.
What’s more; the Piazza Navona is surrounded by restaurants and terraces that impart a charming vibe which is alleviated by joyful performances by street artists like singers, magicians and dancers.
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