What to do and where to eat in Rome: Piazza Navona

Are you close to Piazza Navona? Would you like to know what to do and where to eat? Here you are some tips about places to visit, and also a short list of the best restaurants near Piazza Navona.


Piazza Navona: a little bit of history

During the Roman Age, Piazza Navona was a Stadium, the Domitian Stadium, built by the emperor Domiziano in 85, it was the biggest stadium of Rome and it could host 30.000 audience. Still today, below the square, you can see the ancient stadium, together with a sport museum. In summer the square was closed and filled with water, since it was very hot, so that everybody could use some “fresh time” and some entertainment in here.
Defined as a public space in the last years of 15th century, when the city market was transferred there from the Campidoglio, Piazza Navona was transformed into a highly significant example of Baroque Roman architecture and art during the pontificate of Innocent X, who reigned from 1644 until 1655, and whose family palace, the Palazzo Pamphili, faced the piazza. It features important sculptural and architectural creations: in the center stands the famous Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi or Fountain of the Four Rivers (1651) by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, topped by the Obelisk of Domitian, brought in pieces from the Circus of Maxentius; the church of Sant’Agnese in Agone by Francesco Borromini and so on.
Piazza Navona has two other fountains. At the southern end is the Fontana del Moro with a basin and four Tritons sculpted by Giacomo della Porta (1575) to which, in 1673, Bernini added a statue of a Moor, or African, wrestling with a dolphin. At the northern end is the Fountain of Neptune (1574) also created by Giacomo della Porta; the statue of Neptune, by Antonio Della Bitta, was added in 1878 to create a balance with La Fontana del Moro.
During its history, the piazza has hosted theatrical events and other ephemeral activities. From 1652 until 1866, when the festival was suppressed, it was flooded on every Saturday and Sunday in August in elaborate celebrations of the Pamphilj family. The pavement level was raised in the 19th century, and in 1869 the market was moved to the nearby Campo de’ Fiori. A Christmas market is held in the piazza.

When to go

Surely, the most suggestive period to come and visit this area is Christmas, since from the 20th of December till the 7th of January, a Christmas market is held in this piazza and it’s really amazing, especially during the evening and at night.
This is the perfect area for a walk every day, every time of the day: in the morning and in the afternoon the square hosts a lot of street performers and artists, a lot of people who sell paintings and portraits. In the late afternoon and evening the atmosphere becomes sparkling and, as you maybe can imagine, this square becomes the perfect place for a typical Italian aperitivo.

Where to eat: the best restaurants in Piazza Navona

This area is one of the most touristic Roman squares, so pay attention on bars and restaurants near Piazza Navona, because they can offer touristic menu at touristic prices.
Please, remember: everywhere in Rome, especially in front of squares, monuments and historical sites, if you sit outside, you always pay an extra. For example, if you drink a coffee inside a bar you pay like 1 euro; if you sit outside you can pay even 3 or 4 euros just for one coffee. It’s the same for restaurants. Of course, if you want to sit outside and enjoy the beauty of the squares and the wonderful atmosphere, you are free to do it, but pay attention on the costs. The restaurants right on the piazza cost more, so here are some tips for good places around the square: for aperitivo you can go to Cul de Sac (Piazza Pasquino 73), a wine bar with a wide selection of wines; Circus (Via Della Vetrina 15), a nice vintage place famous for brunch and happy hour; Etablì (Vicolo delle Vacche 9/9A), a small trendy restaurant and wine bar with typical Roman cuisine.
If you are looking for a restaurant just to have dinner, the bests in the area are the Ristorante Casa Coppelle (Piazza delle Coppelle 49), it’s a very elegant restaurant, close to the Pantheon but not so far from Piazza Navona too; Ristorante Grano (Piazza Rondanini 53), a typical Italian restaurant, with something creative and a little bit different from the usual.
If you want to eat in a typical Italian Trattoria, there are two amazing places in this area: Da Tonino (Via del Governo Vecchio 18) and Alfredo&Ada (Via dei Banchi Nuovi 14). Here you can taste the real Roman cuisine, homemade.
If you want to taste an artisanal gelato, you should try Frigidarium (Via del Governo Vecchio 112) and La Gelateria del Teatro (Via dei Coronari 65).

How to reach Piazza Navona

Getting to Piazza Navona is very easy: you can take buses and then walk for like 200/400 m. The number of buses you can take are: 64, 46, 571, 492, 62, 628, 70, 81, 87, 916 and C3.
If you want to come here at night, there are fewer buses, but still some: n15, n20, n5, n6 and n7.

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Any enquiry about this article? Write to Federica at Federica is a local foodie and insider, she was born in Rome and she studied foreign languages. Meet Federica and join one of our events.