Piazza Navona – Home of the Most Famous Fountains in Italy
Take a stroll a little west of the Pantheon and you’ll find the narrow streets suddenly open to reveal one the biggest and liveliest squares in Rome – Piazza Navona.
The piazza is a great place to spend an hour or two taking in the fountains and the market stalls selling everything from Rome souvenirs, books and art to food, drink and clothing. You’ll also find plenty of outdoor cafes and restaurants in and around Piazza Navona for refreshments.
One unusual thing you may notice about this square is that it’s neither square or rectangular. The strange long, oval shape of Piazza Navona is because it lies on the site of an ancient Roman stadium built by Emperor Domitian in AD 86. Some remains of the stadium are still visible but most of it was paved over in the 15th century to create the piazza we see today. Almost forgotten now, in its day, the stadium was even bigger than the Colosseum.
The Famous Fountains of Piazza Navona
There are three large fountains in the piazza. The main one, Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers) was built in the 1600s by Pope Innocent X. Designed by Bernini, each of the four figures in the fountain represent a river from a different continent – the Nile, Ganges, Danube and Rio della Plata. The obelisk the figures surround was originally located near Via Appia Antica.
The two other fountains you’ll find in the square are Fontana del Moro (Moor Fountain) at the southern opening to the piazza and the famous Fontana del Nettuno (Neptune Fountain), featuring Neptune and various sea nymphs, near the northern end of the piazza.
Navona is also the home of the baroque church of Sant’Agnese in Agone, commissioned in 1652 by Pope Innocent X and built on the spot where according to legend St. Agnes life was miraculously saved. The front of the church has a facade built by Borromini, the less well known rival to Bernini.