Christmas and New Year in Piazza Navona are particularly special, stalls line the perimeter and people flock to see the nativity scenes and sample the "castagne", hot roasted chest nuts and "ciambelle", soft spongy buns. The Piazza also has a secret...
Upon entering Piazza Navona you can't help but feel part of a theatre or show and you would be correct in thinking that. The piazza and surrounding buildings stand on the foundations of the Domitian Stadium. A stadium built in the 1st century AD to host athletic games, it could seat more than 30 000 people. You can see evidence of this in the basement of the Sant' Agnese in Agone church (further down the page) where the Stadium's supporting arches are still visible.
The Navona area is characterized by adventure packed cobbled streets and buildings saturated with thousands of years of history. There is an excellent choice of restaurants and Roman cuisine, and a vibrant day and nightlife. It competes with areas like Trastevere and Campo de Fiori for being the "Most Roman suburb."
The area is very central and most of Rome's biggest tourist attractions can be reached by foot.
Map of Piazza Navona Area
What to see in the Piazza Navona area?
The Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi sits in the center of Piazza Navona and after the Trevi fountain it could be Rome's 2nd most loved fountain. Designed and built by Bernini in 1651 for Pope Innocent X, four giants represent the then four great rivers: The Nile, Ganges, Danube and Rio Plata. Particularly impressive is the "risky" design of the open supporting stone arch underneath the massive obelisk.
Something peculiar/fun: In Summer up until the 19th Century the square would be submerged in water by blocking the fountain's drains and the people would have boat processions.
The remaining two fountains in the Piazza are the Fontana del Moro (Campo de Fiori side) and the Fontana del Nettuno, both designed by Giacomo della Porta and later remodeled by Bernini.
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The Piazza Navona and Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi
at Christmas time
St Agnese in Agone is the church of the Piazza. Commissioned by Pope Innocent X in 1652, the church was founded on some of the foundations of the Domitian stadium and also the site of a former brothel and where St Agnes was martyred.
The 13 year old virgin had refused to marry the son of a Roman Prefect. She was exposed naked and forced to renounce her faith. Stories tell of her hair miraculously growing and shielding her modesty, and the men who tried to rape her (it was illegal to kill a virgin) being blinded.
Two streets which promise many surprises for the strollers are the Via del Governo Vecchio and Via dei Coronari.
Via del Governo Vecchio is named after the seat of the old Catholic Government. The street originally ran from San Giovanni in Laterano to St Peters and is bordered by Renaissance houses, villas and workshops.
Via dei Coronari and the Ponte Sant' Angelo were the final stages for many pilgrims visiting the holy city. The street is named after the numerous rosary businesses, Coronari
, that lined the street and was often the scene of human stampedes where many pilgrims lost their lives, trampled to death or forced into the Tiber River at the Castel Sant' Angelo bridge.
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Getting to and from the Piazza Navona area.
(Refer to the street map of the Piazza Navona towards the top of the page.)
Rome Tram: The No 8 tram runs from Largo di Torre Argentina down Via Arenula over Ponte Garibaldi (upstream from Tiber Island) and through the Trastevere area.
Rome buses: The main bus stop is at Largo di Torre Argentina (on Via del Plebiscito/Vittorio Emanuele).
- The 116 and 119 are the two pocket size electric buses that zigzag through the streets of Campo de Fiori and Navona.
The 116 rotates between the Vatican and Villa Borghese gardens, passing by Piazza Barberini (Via Veneto area), Trevi Fountain, Roman Pantheon and Piazza Navona.
The 119 rotates between Largo di Argentina and Piazza del Popolo, passing by Piazza Venezia and Augustus Mausoleum (see Campo de Fiori area) along the way.
- There are numerous bus stops on Via del Plebiscito/Vittorio Emanuele. The no 40 runs straight to the Vatican and the no 87 runs through Piazza Venezia along Fori Imperiali (Roman Forum) to the ancient Roman Colosseum.
For more about the buses in Rome see my dedicated page Rome buses and Rome public transport.
Rome taxi: There are a few small taxi stops along Via del Plebiscito/Vittorio Emanuele. (Refer to our Navona Map and look for the big "T" for Taxi.)
Rome tourist buses: There are tourist bus stops at 139 Viale Vittorio Emanuele, directly between Piazza Navona and Piazza di Campo de Fiori and at Piazza di Ponte Sant' Angelo. Ponte (bridge) Sant' Angelo is the bridge from Castel Sant' Angelo over the Tiber river.
The Rome tourist buses
are a great introduction to the city and the easiest way to find your bearings and choose your must-dos for your next lap around.
Note: If you haven't already heard about it on my site then the ATAC public transportation in Rome site has a great tool for calculating the quickest route from point A to point B anywhere in Rome (using Rome public transport). When you arrive at the website click on the English language option to the right. Fill in your departure address and arrival address.
For more information visit public transportation in Rome Italy
and its related pages:
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Restaurants and nightlife in the Piazza Navona area.
During the day time at Piazza Navona artists show off their accomplishments and street performers entertain, at night it's the restaurants and cafes turn to pulsate with clients and activity.
The square is a constant hum of activity come winter or summer and is also famous for the Italian pastime of people watching.
For some more Rome nightlife options Campo de Fiori is 5 minutes away across the Via del Plebiscito/Vittorio Emanuele. Alternatively you can take a short beautiful stroll across the Tiber River to the Trastevere area.
For more advice about eating out in Rome visit my Rome restaurants page and also the Rome restaurant guide page for advice and tips from visitors to this site.
Finished with the Piazza Navona area? Click on an area of the map below to visit another area.