Piazza Navona. Plaza in Rome, Italy

Piazza Navona

Plaza in Rome, Italy

Piazza Navona - Rome Photo © Lorenzoclick

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Piazza Navona

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Piazza Navona - Rome - Piazza Navona
Piazza Navona - Rome - Piazza Navona. Photo by Lorenzoclick
Piazza Navona is a popular square in Rome. Tourists and artists flock to the romantic setting to see its beautiful fountains and eat at the cafés.


The piazza was originally established in the 1st century AD and became a site for sports, markets, and other public functions. By the 17th century, it also became a significant location for the arts. The square was surrounded by Baroque, Roman architecture and soon filled with sculptures and fountains. Fountains were popular in Rome because they provided sources of water before advances in plumbing and they acted as monuments to the papacy which heavily influenced all areas of life. Within the square is the Fontana del Moro created by Giacomo della Porta in 1575 (which was added to in 1673), and the Fountain of Neptune created by Gicomo della Porta in 1574. The piazza is most often recognized as the setting for the third and final fountain, Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi.

Piazza Navona - Rome - Piazza
Piazza Navona - Rome. Photo by Lorenzoclick

The Fountain of the Four Rivers

Piazza Navona - Piazza
Piazza Navona - Piazza Navona. Photo by vgm8383
Gian Lorenzo Bernini was a famous artist and architect from Naples (Wikipedia Article) whose work can be seen throughout Rome in churches and public works, including several fountains. Berini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers is perhaps his most famous and sits in the center of the piazza. The fountain was designed in 1651 by Bernini for Pope Innocent X, after Bernini won a design competition for the opportunity.

The fountain’s base is made up of four points, each dedicated to a different river. They meet above a negative space and support a large obelisk (an ancient monument used in Egypt). The rivers represent the four continents which the papacy has spread; the Nile represents Africa, the Danube represents Europe, the Ganges (Wikipedia Article) represents Asia, and the Rio de la Plate represents the Americas (Wikipedia Article).
Each point of the base features a life-size, muscular, nude man, typical of Baroque, Neoclassic and ancient art. The Niles River is found with a cloth covering his eyes, a metaphor of the mysteries that surrounded the African river and perhaps alluding to the pagan ignorance of the native population. The Ganges River holds an oar, and the Rio de la Plate sits upon a pile of coins representing the financial opportunities that the Americas provided. The European river, the Danube, is reaching towards the papal coat of arms, because it is the closest to Rome. There are also animals and foliage to allude to the rivers the men represent, including a horse and lion which are half hidden in the center of the fountain.

Piazza Navona, Fontana del Moro, Fontana dei
	quattro fiumi; Rom - Piazza Navona
Piazza Navona, Fontana del Moro, Fontana dei quattro fiumi; Rom. Photo by Alexander Russy

Piazza Navona - Rome - Piazza Navona
Piazza Navona - Rome - Piazza Navona. Photo by Lorenzoclick
The building of the fountain and its unveiling was controversial. Despite the plaza being filled with Romans to see the unveiling in 1651, many were upset that the Pope had commissioned the fountain with public funds when the city was still recovering from a famine.

Visiting the Piazza Navona

Access to the Piazza Navona is available all day and night through several streets. The plaza is busiest in early evening when many tourists take advantage of the nearby cafés and pizza shops. There are also a number of local vendors, artists, and musicians in the piazza during its busy hours to entertain tourists. To avoid the crowds, it is best to visit the square in the morning.

The Piazza Navona is home to Sant’Agnese in Agone, a 17th century church, and is within walking distance to the Pantheon of Rome, the Chiostro del Bramante (a classical art museum), the Trevi Fountain, and several other piazzas.

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Author: workwoman. Last updated: Feb 23, 2015

Pictures of Piazza Navona

Piazza Navona
Piazza Navona. Photo by unknown


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