An Afternoon in Rome: Piazza Navona

Piazza Navona in Rome is one of the most famous city squares in the world. Besides displaying the exquisite Baroque architectural and sculptural genius of Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Francesco Borromini, it was also built on the site of the Circus Agonalis or Domitian’s Stadium, an arena where the Romans watched athletic competitions.

While there are many things to see at Piazza Navona the main attractions are the vestiges of Domitian’s Stadium, Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (fountain of the four rivers), Fontana di Nettuno (Neptune fountain), and the Church of Sant’Agnese in Agone. My personal favorite is the Quattro Fiumi, which represents the Danube, the Nile, the Rio de la Plata, and the Ganges; one river for each corner of the globe. Each is ornamented differently, representing Bernini’s understanding of the world at his time. For example, the Nile is a hooded figure to emphasize the fact that no one knew the Nile’s source. Likewise, the Ganges has a long oar to illustrate the fact that it was, by and large, a navigable river. The piazza also contains many hints of its colorful past, such as Bernini’s often fierce rivalry with Borromini, so if you’re in Roma make sure to check it out!

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