Piazza Navona is an elegant square in Rome that goes back to the 1st century AD. Close to the Tiber River and the Pantheon, Navona is one of the most beautiful and largest piazza squares in the city. There are 3 impressive fountains here, including la Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, with the big obelisk at its center. The square is built on the 1st-century Stadium of Domitian. Residents of ancient Rome came here to watch games or ‘agones’, and this gave the square its name ‘Cicrus Agonalis’, which means competition arena. The name Agona changed to Navone, and finally ‘Navona’.
All around Piazza Navona, you will find painters, musicians, and street artists, adding a lively atmosphere. There are many restaurants, cafes, antique stores, clothing shops, and even a library. You can also see the Sant’Agnese baroque church in the backdrop.
At the center is the Barque masterpiece, Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers. The statues represent the four rivers symbolizing the four corners of the earth.
Quick Facts – Piazza Navona
|Piazza Navona||Big 1st century public square in Rome with fountains, restaurants, cafes, shops all around and a church.|
|What was Piazza Navona originally used for||Originally, it was an arena in ancient Rome for sporting activities. It was turned into a market later. In the 17th century, Pope Innocent X rebuilt it as a monument.|
|The 3 Fountains||Fontana di Nettuno, Fontana del Moro, Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi|
|What to See||The fountains, baroque church, street performers.|
|People Watching||Piazza Navona is popular with tourists. Many locals also like to hang out here. It is a good place for people watching.|
The 3 Fountains
La Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi – Designed by Bernini, this stands right at the center of the plaza in Rome. It is also called the Fountain of Four Rivers, with the 4 statues representing the most important rivers – Ganges, Danube, Rio de la Plata, and Nile. In the center of the fountain, there is a tall Roman obelisk. You will find a dove on the base of the fountain. An olive branch and the pope’s coat of arms.
Fontana del Moro – This fountain represents a Moor standing in a conch shell and wrestling with a dolphin. Four Tritons surround him. It’s located at the Southern end of the piazza.
Fontana del Nettuno – The Fountain of Neptune stayed unfinished for about 300 years, till Gregorio Zappalà and Antonio Della Bitta completed it in 1878. See Neptune fighting with an octopus here.
Other Attractions At Piazza Navona
Palazzo Braschi – Neo-Classical building dating from late 18C. There is the statue of Pasquino at the northwest corner. This is Rome’s most famous talking statue. In Papal Rome, the statue was plastered with lampoons criticizing the political scene or denouncing moral standards. The palace houses the Museum of Rome, which tells the story of Rome since the Middle Ages.
Chiesa Nuova – A Counter-Reformation church, rebuilt by St. Philip Neri. The Baroque decoration of the interior is by Pietro da Cortona. You can see some precious paintings here. The chapel on the left contains the tomb of St. Philip.
Palazzo Torres – Just south of Piazza Navona. Built-in the 16th century, it is an excellent example of the architecture prevalent during the era. Some of the statues have since been moved to the Vatican Museums.
Learn more about the architecture and history of Piazza Navona here.
Best Times to Visit
This is a public plaza, and very popular too, so you can expect a crowd almost throughout the day. Visit early in the morning or late in the evening if you want the plaza to be crowd-free.
- 7 AM to 10 AM is generally a good time.
- For the evening, it should be after 8 PM.
- For best views of the sites and the fountains, visit during sunset/twilight. But you can expect many more people here this time of the day.