Rome. Piazza Navona Revisited

During a solo visit to Rome, almost 25 years ago, I vividly recall the colour of Rome more than anything else. It was February, wintertime, and although cold in the morning, by late afternoon the buildings seemed to glow salmon and pink. My senses were heightened during that particular visit. During this year’s visit, the rawness of that earlier time has crept up on me. Rome is still bathed in pink, despite its ochre, yellow and beige buildings along with white and grey marble. Roman light is a magical thing.

During that 1993 trip, I stayed close to Piazza Navona and wandered around the campo each morning before the visitors arrived. I always enjoy revisiting Navona when in Rome and usually find something new to consider. This year, Bernini’s marble river gods look very appealing in the rain.

I mentioned yesterday that memories are subject to revision when revisited. In the past, I found the semi- naked Gods in Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi far too mannerist in style and not unlike the images found in a beefcake magazine. This time, the rain bought out the transparency of the skin and the gracefulness of male movement. It’s simply a matter of turning a blind eye to the not- so- well- hung, or should I say, not so well endowed, statue of the Moor standing nearby. 

Each stature represents a river- the Ganges, Nile, Danube and Rio de Plata.

“The Ganges carries a long oar, representing the river’s navigability. The Nile’s head is draped with a loose piece of cloth, meaning that no one at that time knew exactly where the Nile’s source was. The Danube touches the  Pope’s personal coat of arms, since it is the large river closest to Rome. And the Rio de Plata is sitting on a pile of coins, a symbol of the riches America could offer to Europe. Also, the Río de la Plata looks scared by a snake, showing rich men’s fear that their money could be stolen. Each is a river god, semi-prostrate, in awe of the central tower, epitomized by the slender Egyptian obelisk, symbolizing by Papal power surmounted by the Pamphili symbol. ( the Pope’s family crest, patrons of this work) In addition, the fountain is a theater in the round, a spectacle of action, that can be strolled around. Water flows and splashes from a jagged and pierced mountainous disorder of travertine marble.”¹

Given the rain, we took refuge in Borromini’s church, Sant’Agnese in Agone. I was thinking about the appropriateness of this title, given the state of my legs, but it turns out that ” in agone” has nothing to do with that martyr’s agony but is a reference to the original name of Piazza Navona, which was Circus Agonalis, a competition arena for the Roman military. The church was full of other rain escapees sitting quietly in the pews. I was also keen to find the doves with olive branches set in marble on the floor. These doves spoke to me during my 1993 visit and in my memory, they were small and graceful. This time, they appeared awkward and primitive, and more like chooks! There are three to be found, again symbols of the Pamphili family who commissioned Sant’Agnese.

Rome is never very cold in winter and although still busy, especially on Sunday, Italian is the language you’ll hear most in the crowd. It is, for me, the best time to visit, away from the maddening crowd, the tour groups, and the loudness of foreign tongues. It’s the season when Rome is bathed in pink.


20 thoughts on “Rome. Piazza Navona Revisited”

  1. Such fond memories. Am reading this in a house with no power as we have just had a huge storm blow over and knock out the power for the second time in a week! Gives me a chance to catch up with my blog reading. xx

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Oops – have always loved Piazza Navona . . . . well, for being my favourite place to have lunch in the open and look for alabaster and jewellery as only the Romans know how to make and . . . now, at this late stage and from far away, you are teaching me what I should have discovered a long time ago . . . 🙂 !!!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Part two was well worth waiting for. As for the doves, at first glance I think “my what big feet”. But after studying your image I’m thinking in admiration in the skill it must of taken to make those dove mosaics. Thanks so much for sharing Rome with us.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I really enjoyed your memories as you compared the recent one to prior…you described the lighting in Rome perfectly, with salmon and peach hues. Exactly as I remember it. Piazza Navona and the Four Rivers with their twisting muscular poses has always fascinated me. How wonderful to be in Rome this time of year!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. One of my favourite places in Rome! The fountain from which the four corners of the earth originate – wonderful Baroque sculpture and lots of symbolism. Of course, there is my most favourite ancient building in the piazza – the Pantheon. Did you encounter the picket guards in fancy uniform from the National Institute of Honour Guards to the Royal Tombs?


  6. Beautiful photos! I was in Piazza Navona 2 Sundays before you. The weather was lovely, but the center of the piazza was full of (fake) snow! They were filming a Christmas ad for TIM. Even some of the balconies had been sprayed with ‘snow’. I hadn’t been to Roma in late October before. I expected to have it all to myself-but was surprised to find so many people! The Pantheon was more crowded than it was in July. I guess I will have to go at 6am to dance in the piazza by myself! Buon rest of your viaggio, Cristina

    Liked by 1 person

Now over to you.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.