Piazza Navona is a piazza in Rome, Italy. It is built on the site of the Stadium of Domitian, built in 1st century AD, and follows the form of the open space of the stadium. The ancient Romans went there to watch the agones (“games”), and hence it was known as “Circus Agonalis” (“competition arena”). It is believed that over time the name changed to in avone to navone and eventually to navona.
Piazza Navona is one of the most famous and arguably the most beautiful of Rome’s many squares. The large and lively square features no less than three magnificent fountains. Another eyecatcher is the Baroque church of Sant’Agnese in Agone.
History of Piazza Navona
From the shadows of the ancient, winding streets of the historic center you suddenly come upon the breathtaking magnificence of Piazza Navona, born as a place of spectacle and still today a spectacular open air show; an architectural miracle in the heart of the Eternal City, filled with masterpieces in perfect harmony with each other.
This piazza, which displays the genius of Bernini and Borromini, is one of the finest Baroque Masterpiece in papal Rome. Its harmony and colors, combined with its elegance, give it a charm that is enhanced by the surprising contrast of architecturally sober houses alternating with a number of monumental Buildings.
Of all Rome’s piazzas, this isola pedonale (pedestrian precinct) is one where the liveliness of Roman life is most tangible. It has long been a meeting place for the inhabitants of Rome. In past, in addition to the market, processions and spectacles where held here – included “naumachiae”, or mock naval battles.
Today life in the piazza revolves around the open-air-cafés and the seasonal fairs. Of these the most popular is the one held in December and early January where toys and crib figures are sold. Its theme if the Feast of Epiphany as well as Christmas, so la Befana (the Epiphany witch, who his roughly the Italian equivalent of Father Christmas) features prominently. In the summer the piazza provides a continous festival of painters, caricaturists, fortune-teller and buskers, who entertain visitors until the small hours.