See Baroque masterpieces at this famous oval square.
Piazza Navona is one of Rome’s most beautiful squares, located right in the historic center. Its unique long, oval shape, brimming with Baroque art and architecture, makes it the perfect place to go for a stroll and soak in the Roman ambiance.
- Be awed by the piazza’s fountains, including Bernini’s majestic centerpiece.
- Admire the opulent and innovative facade of Sant’Agnese, a church designed by Borromini.
- Have a coffee break in the Neoclassical courtyard of Palazzo Braschi, which houses the Museum of Rome.
What to See and Do
Piazza Navona is the perfect place to enjoy a ‘passeggiata’ (a stroll) as you munch on a gelato and take in the incredible sights. Here are just a few things that are unmissable.
Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers)
The largest and most impressive of the three fountains, this Baroque masterpiece, sculpted by famous sculptor and architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini, is located right in the center of the square and topped by a Roman copy of an Egyptian obelisk.
The four giant statues, made of white marble, are allegorical representations of great rivers, one from each of the four continents known at the time. They are:
The Danube, representing Europe, sits closest to the papal crest (since he’s the nearest to the Vatican).
The Rio de la Plata has his arm raised and is surrounded by coins, which symbolize the riches brought back to the Vatican from the Americas.
The Nile, sitting next to the lion and the palm tree (other symbols of Africa), has a cloth over his face because, at the time, its source was still unknown.
The Ganges (Asia) carries an oar in his hand because it was considered an easy river to navigate.
Fontana del Moro (Fountain of the Moor)
This fountain, which can be viewed on the south side of the square, was designed by Giacomo della Porta, who sculpted the pink marble basin and four triton statues in 1575. Eight years later, Bernini added the statue of the moor standing atop a giant shell and wrestling with a dolphin.
Fontana del Nettuno (Fountain of Neptune)
Located at the Northern end of the piazza, this fountain features a sculpture of the Roman god of the sea, Neptune, entangled in a fight with an octopus. They are surrounded by statues of nymphs, seahorses, and cupids.
Although the original pink marble basin was designed in 1575 by Giacomo della Porta, the actual statues weren’t added until the nineteenth century, and that was in order to create a balance with the ‘Fontana del Moro’.
Church of Sant’Agnese in Agone
This church, built on the site of Agnes’ martyrdom, was designed by Francesco Borromini, the most daring architect of the Roman Baroque, and is one of the best examples of Baroque architecture in Rome.
If you peek inside, you’ll be dazzled by the extravagant and prolific ornamentation, but the facade of the church is actually the main draw. Its unique and balanced design would go on to inspire many different buildings of the later Baroque period.
This lavish palace, designed by Cosimo Morelli in the Neoclassical style, is now home to the Museum of Rome (Museo di Roma). Its permanent collection covers the history of Rome from the 15th to the 19th centuries and it also hosts temporary exhibitions as well.
Apart from the collections, one of the main draws of the museum is to see its ornately decorated interiors with its tempera paintings and delicately crafted stuccoes. Don’t miss out on the magnificent staircase designed by Giuseppe Valadier, one of its defining features!
Piazza Navona is located in the historic center of Rome and is easily accessible by foot from other nearby sites, such as the Pantheon (5 minutes), Campo de’ Fiori (5 min.), and Castel Sant’Angelo (10 min.).
Metro: Unfortunately, there are no stops close to the square. The nearest stations are ‘Spagna’ and ‘Barberini’, on Line A. Both are a 15-20 minute walk away.
Bus: The best way to reach the square by public transport is by bus. Some buses that bring you to nearby stops are:
40, 64 – Argentina
81, 87, 70, 492 – Rinascimento
Tram: Line 8 – Arenula/Cairoli (12 min. walk)
Did You Know That: 4 Interesting Facts
- During the holiday season, Piazza Navona hosts Rome’s biggest Christmas market. If you happen to be here during this period, you can’t miss it.
- The square gets its name ‘Navona’, meaning ‘big ship’, from its peculiar and unique shape, which resembles the hollow profile of a ship.
- For over two centuries (1651-1867), the square would be flooded every weekend in August, Rome’s most scorching month. The little lake would then host staged naval battles for the entertainment of the aristocracy.
- Bernini and Borromini’s rivalry is the stuff of legend. It’s said that Bernini purposely designed one of the river god statues to have one hand raised in alarm in the direction of Borromini’s church as if scared that the building might collapse on him.
- The piazza was built on the site of the Stadium of Domitian, hence its long, oval shape. The stadium, known as the ‘Circus Agonalis’ (competition arena), was built in the 1st century CE and was host to popular athletic games and contests.
- After the fall of the Roman Empire, the stadium was abandoned and was only used to quarry materials. It wasn’t until the 15th century that the square was put back into use when it became the location of the city market.
- In the 17th century, Pope Urban X (of the prominent Pamphili family) transformed the square into the Baroque beauty that it is today. He commissioned both Bernini and Borromini and arranged the construction of the Pamphilj Palace, as well.
- Palazzo Braschi was commissioned over a century later by another pope, Pope Pius VI.
- In the 19th century, the square was paved over with the famous Roman cobblestones, the ‘sampietrini‘.
- Today, the piazza is a vibrant and bustling place, filled with street artists, surrounded by lively cafes, and enjoyed by tourists and locals alike.
Address: Piazza Navona, Piazza Navona , 00186 Roma, Italy · view larger map