Wednesday, August 03, 2011
The Piazza Navona is on many lists of must see sights in Rome and for good reason. It not only serves as a great framework for Bernini's Fountain of the Four Rivers, but it provides a broad open space for many activities. You will undoubtedly run into street artists and performers, but if you're either lucky or you plan well, you can find a market or festival in progress.
If you look at the background in this photo of Fontana Dei Quattro Diumi you'll see market stalls set up, perhaps for some of the painters. The Piazza is the home of a very popular Christmas market that I once attended. It was crowded with vendors selling ornaments and Nativity creches filled with a multitude of characters, including the expected Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, and Baby Jesus. In Italy you can always find the fruit peddler, cheese seller and oddballs you never could imagine on your own. We also found a variety of candy sellers specializing in black crystallized sugar that looked like lumps of coal, undoubtedly for "bad" children. I wondered what the briskly selling twigs were; did "good" children get shortchanged by having to be content with chewing on wood?
The Fountain of the Four Rivers represents the four corners of the earth by depicting the Nile, Ganges, Danube, and Rio De La Plata. If you look at the figure on the far left, with its defensive pose, that is said to be Bernini's reaction to the church across from the fountain, designed by his rival for papal commissions, Francesco Borromini. Fact or fiction, does it matter when it's a good story?