What you need to know
The history of Piazza Navona dates back to Ancient Roman times. On the site of what is now the square stood Domitian’s Stadium where public shows, games and even re-enactments of naval battles were once carried out.
Even after it had fallen into ruin and virtually disappeared, the Stadium remained a place where people met to celebrate. This custom continued until the nineteenth century when comedy actors, acrobats and clowns put on shows to entertain people on festive Sundays.
The current form of Piazza Navona dates back to the 17th and 18th centuries when it already featured the fountains, Palazzo Pamphilj (now the Brazilian Embassy) and the Church of Sant’Agnese. The Square has hardly changed since, one of the reasons it remains so fascinating.
The obelisk at the centre of the square is about 16 metres high and stands on a base comprising the Fontana dei Fiumi, featuring four statues that represent the four main rivers: the Nile, the Danube, the Ganges and the Rio de la Plata.
The Church of Sant’Agnese in Agone, designed by Borromini, honours the saint of the same name who, according to the legend, died in Domitian’s Stadium at the very point where the church was erected.
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