Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Piazza Novona - Rome, Italy

A Balcony looking out onto Piazza Novona - Rome, Italy
A Balcony looking out onto Piazza Novona - Rome, Italy  

Piazza Novona, a ten minute walk from the pantheon, is probably Rome's most famous square. It actually sits on top of an ancient stadium built by Emperor Domitian in the first century AD. The track and field are said to have been used for competitions similar to the Greek olympics and during the Renaissance the stadium was often flooded for mock sea battles. 

More info and images after the jump.

Bernini's Fontana Quattro Fiumi in Piazza Novona - Rome, Italy
Bernini's Fontana Quattro Fiumi in Piazza Novona - Rome, Italy

The square is also home to three famous fountains. The largest of these is Bernini's Fontana Quattro Fiumui (Fountain of the four rivers), shown above. The fountain is said to depict the four major rivers of the known continents: the Nile, the Ganges, the Plate and the Danube. Legend has it that the Bernini designed one of the statues (image below), facing the church of Saint Agnes (in the background of the image above), shielding his eyes from the "horror of the church" which was designed by his rival Borromini. In actual fact the church was built after the fountain.

Bernini's Fontana Quattro Fiumi in Piazza Novona - Rome, Italy

The solitary statue of Saint Agnes, above the facade of the church, turning away from Bernini's fountain when it would have normally faced the fountain. A small skull in the reliquary of the church is said to be that of Saint Agnes, who was beheaded in the stadium of Emperor Domitian in the 3rd century AD. 

Detail of Bernini's Fontana Quattro Fiumi in Piazza Novona - Rome, Italy
Detail of Bernini's Fontana Quattro Fiumi in Piazza Novona - Rome, Italy

The other two fountains in the square are Fontana del Nettuno (Fountain of Neptune)  on the northern end of the piazza and Fontana del Moro (Fountain of the Moor) on the southern end. The Fontana del Moro, shown below, was designed by Giacomo della Porta consisted of a basin and four Tritons. In 1673 Bernini added a Moor (African) wrestling with a dolphin. 

Fontana della Moro in Piazza Novona - Rome, Italy
Fontana della Moro in Piazza Novona - Rome, Italy

The basin of the Fontana della Nettuno was also designed by Giacomo della Porta in 1574 and is said to have been sponsored by Pope Gregory XIII.  For 300 years the fountain survived without any statues. The fountain we see today, with the statue of Neptune (shown below) was completed by Antonio della Bitta in 1878. 

Fontana della Nettuno in Piazza Novona - Rome, Italy
Fontana della Nettuno in Piazza Novona - Rome, Italy

A number of restaurants open out onto the piazza which is also full of artist's stalls, street performers and tourists. Needless to say, it is quite crowded during the day. A Christmas market is held at the piazza  every year. The markets run well into the night and are said to be worth a visit. 

Tourists and the Church if Saint Agnes at Piazza Novona - Rome, Italy
Tourists and the Church if Saint Agnes at Piazza Novona - Rome, Italy

All images on this post were captured with a Canon 7D and the 24 - 105mm lens.

A View of Piazza Novona - Rome, Italy
A View of Piazza Novona - Rome, Italy

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