When Rome Is Your Campus: Piazza Navona

Piazza Navona is one of Rome’s most beautiful and iconic public squares. It is a gathering place for friends as well as a hub for artists and street musicians. The famous piazza even hosts an annual Christmas market with sweets and street vendors selling holiday decorations. But how much have we really explored and learned about this part of town?

Piazza Navona

When you’re a degree-seeking student at John Cabot University, Rome is your campus. This means that you will be spending a lot of time at sites in the heart of the Eternal City, like Piazza Navona and its surrounding areas.

Three fun facts about Piazza Navona

1. There are ruins of an ancient Roman stadium beneath the piazza

In 86 A.D., the Roman Emperor Titus Flavius Domitianus built a huge stadium on the site of Piazza Navona. It was mostly used for athletic purposes, contests, and physical fitness. The stadium was covered in white marble and could fit up to 15,000 people! However, it was paved over in the 15th century, and today’s Piazza Navona was created. It’s hard to imagine the tranquil Piazza filled with thousands of cheering fans in the stands. Pretty cool, right?

2. You can see a Bernini fountain in the piazza’s center

When you head over to Piazza Navona, one of the first things that will stand out to you is the sound of flowing water. The piazza is famous for its beautiful and elaborate fountains in the center. These are resting places for tourists, travelers, and locals alike. The largest of these fountains –the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi or the Fountain of Four Rivers–was built by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, a famous Italian sculptor and architect of the 17th century. It consists of four figures, each representing a river from the four continents known at the time: the Nile (Africa), Ganges (Asia), Danube (Europe), and Rio della Plata (Americas).

3. Piazza Navona used to get turned into a “lake”

Piazza Navona

In the 1600’s, Pope Innocent X started a tradition of covering the drains of the three fountains in Piazza Navona every summer. This would cause the water to flood over, creating a kind of public swimming pool for citizens to enjoy. Because of that, the piazza became known as the “Lake of Piazza Navona.” This tradition lasted for two whole centuries.

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