Piazza Navona Facts & History

Piazza Navona, also known in English as Navona Square, is located in Rome’s historical center. No doubt that Navona Square is one of the most famous squares in Rome and also one of the finest symbols of the Baroque Rome. It displays the genius of Bernini, Borromini and Giacomo della Porta with its three amazing fountains, The Fountain of the Four Rivers, the Fontana del Moro and the Fontana del Nettuno, along with the beautiful church of Sant’Agnese in Agone. However, only a few know that the piazza is actually built on the ancient Stadium of Domitian. You can still admire the peculiar rectangular shape of the arena, ending with a rounded curve on the short sides.

Credits: image by @Roma_Wonder
Location: in the Pantheon & Navona Square Area
Tickets: Not Needed
Accessibility: Accessible
Kid-friendly Attraction

Stadium of Domitian

The stadium of Domitian dates back to the 85 AD. It was used mostly for sporting events and contents of physical fitness. It could host up to 30,000 spectators and was covered with white marble. It was nearly 276 meters in length and 106 meters in width. The stadium was decorated with beautiful marble statues. Among them there was the famous Pasquino statue, that today sits in the nearby Piazza del Pasquino.

Credits: image by Dietmar RabichOwn work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Origin of Piazza Navona

In the 15th century, following the will of Cardinal Giovanni Battista Pamphilj, who became Pope with the name of Innocenzo X in 1664, the ancient stadium of Domitian was paved and Piazza Navona was created. The monumental square had the purpose of celebrating the greatness of the Pamphilj family. The impressive white building, named Pamphilj Palace, was built by Architect Girolamo Rainaldi who carried out the works.

Origin of Piazza Navona

In 1647 Innocenzo X started designing a new asset for the square. He thought about building a fountain in the middle of the piazza to replace an old basin used as a horse trough. The Pope had water brought to square from the Aqueduct of the Acqua Vergine. This is where the well-known Borromini vs Bernini saga begins. Indeed, the Pope originally assigned the project of the fountain to Borromini. However, Bernini was able to regain the Pope’s favor by sending to his the sister-in-law Donna Olimpia a silver model of the fountain. When the Pope saw the prototype Donna Olimpia had received was so happy that he commissioned the work to Bernini, who created one of his greatest works, the Fountain of the Four Rivers.

The Winter Market of Piazza Navona

Piazza Navona also hosts one of the most picturesque local markets in Rome, proud of 100 years of history. From December until the 6th of January, following the Roman tradition, you can find stalls selling Christmas decorations, candies and socks! Kids usually love to take a ride on the carousel, which is an authentic German piece from 1896, while grown-ups discover artisan products sold at the stalls.

Credits: image by @Roma_Wonder