Lined with coffee shops, restaurants and some shops, Piazza Navona is a popular location for visitors to Rome.
Piazza Navona takes its shape from the Domitian Stadium that was originally constructed on the site in the first century AD, a kind of arena used to host ancient Roman games.
The square as we know and love it today dates back to the end of the 1400s, when it was redesigned to house a market.
It went on to also be used for theatre and other spectaculars. This including flooding the square each weekend of August from 1652-1866 as part of festivities honouring noble Pamphili family, whose house faced into the square.
The market was moved only in the late 1800s, to the location where it remains to this day – the nearby Campo de’ Fiori. At this time, the paving of the Piazza Navona was leveled out (no more floods!).
These days, it is a must-see site for visitors to Rome and also popular with locals around Christmas time, when the square hosts a market.
Piazza Navona is most famous for its fountains, particularly the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers), constructed in 1651 by Gian Lorenzo Bernini to centrepiece Piazza Navona, with four figures surrounding an ancient Egyptian obelisk that had been in the Circus of Maxentius.
On each end of the square, there is another fountain. The north end of Piazza Navona features Giacomo della Porta’s Fountain of Neptune (1574). The figure of Neptune was only added nearly 3 centuries later to balance with the Fontana del Moro on the southern side.
The Fontana del Moro features four Tritons by Giacomo della Porta, completed in 1575. In 1673 however, an additional figure of a Moor wrestling a dolphin was added by Bernini.
There are also great exemplars of Baroque architecture in Piazza Navona, including the Sant'Agnese in Agone church. Pope Innocent X was pope during the time of the restorations and his family palace, Palazzo Pamphili, faces into the piazza also.