In relation to Piazza Navona history, it is interesting to note that the famous square occupies the site of a former stadium. This stadium, which is referred to as the Stadium of Domition, was built in the first century A.D. and was used primarily for chariot races and athletic events. Over time, the stadium fell into ruin, and it was eventually decided that the site be converted into an open square. This square, the Piazza Navona, more specifically occupies the interior arena of the ancient stadium, and its shape is very much dictated by this element.
At the end of the fifteenth century, the city market of Rome was transferred to the Piazza Navona. This has a lot to do with the fact that the now-famous square became a public space that could be used by all. Prior to this, it was flooded on occasion upon order of the Popes so that it could host mock naval battles. Coincidentally, there are accounts of the Colosseum also being flooded for such purposes.
Innocent X, who served as the Pope from 1644 to 1655, is largely responsible for the Piazza Navona as we know it today. The family palace of said Pope sat on the square, much as it still does today, and it is safe to assume that Innocent X wanted to beautify what was essentially his front yard. Among the works that he ordered to be built in the Piazza Navona was the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, or the Fountain of the Four Rivers, as it is known in English. This beautiful fountain was finished in 1651, and it is largely responsible for Piazza Navona’s reputation as one of the most attractive Baroque sites in all of Europe. Complementing this famous fountain are two other Baroque gems, the likes of which include the Fountain of the Moor and the Fountain of Neptune.
Over time, the Piazza Navona became a major meeting place in Rome, and it still plays that role. Cafes line the beautiful square, and it is common to encounter street performers and vendors within its confines on any given day. Also worth noting is the fact that the Piazza Navona hosts a Christmas market during the holiday season.