Piazza Navona, undeniably the most elegant and cheerful of all Roman piazzas, it was built on the site of Stadium of Domitian in the 1st Century A.D. and still preserves its outline. The piazza remains a highly popular meeting place for Romans and tourists alike, who drowsily soak up the sun and atmosphere in open air bars dotted around it.
Used in ancient times for various athletic games and competitions, although it never witnessed the carnage offered in the Colosseum, today tourists often enjoy sitting for street artists who, on request, in a few minutes either sketch a faithful portrait or draw a caricature of their models. Over Christmas, the piazza is suddenly swamped by a bustling multi-coloured market, selling cribs, decorations and sweets.
A treat for young children, it reaches its height of excitement on the night of 5th January, when the “Befana” (The Good Witch) flies about the country, delivering presents to “well-behaved “ children.
The centerpiece of Rome’s beautiful Navona Square is the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers), one of the most famous fountains in the Eternal City. It was built in the mid 17th century after a design by Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
The fountain, officially inaugurated in 1651, was commissioned by pope Innocent X, an artistically-minded member of the Pamphilj-family. The fountain was financed with the income from an unpopular tax levied on bread, meat and salt. The fountain was created by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, one of the most celebrated sculptors in history. Innocent X initially preferred to work with Francesco Borromini instead of Bernini, who had received much support from the previous pope, Urban VIII. Since Urban VIII had been in conflict with Innocent X, the latter awarded the construction of the new fountain to Borromini, Bernini’s archrival. However, Bernini created a model of his fountain and used his connections to influence the pope. After seeing the model, Innocent was delighted and assigned the project to Bernini instead of Borromini.