In the warm summer evening, I pass the crowd at the Trevi Fountain, making wishes, taking selfies. I walk on through narrow streets filled with Saturday day-night alfresco diners, to the Pantheon, built between 27 and 25BC by Agrippa, with its 12m tall portico columns . . . 40 Roman feet tall, their granite was excavated from Egyptian quarries.
And still I walk on, down another narrow street lined with epic buildings and high shutters, until a square opens out before me. For all its history and religious and architectural treasures, Piazza Navona is a sort-of spiritual home for me. We all need a centre, and this is it.
Piazza Navona is built on the 1st century site of the Stadium of the Domitian — still clearly an open stadium where ancient Romans watched games. It was defined as a public space in the last years of the 15th century, and transformed into a very good example of Baroque Roman architecture under Pope Innocent X, who was in office from 1644 until 1655 and whose family palace faces this piazza.
I love Piazza Navona for Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s beautiful Fountain of the Four Rivers — the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, constructed in 1651. (And I love it for the quirkiness of his often ignored statue of a Moor, rather oddly wrestling a dolphin, which was added in 1673.)
I love it for all the memories I have here. An espresso with an Italian filmmaker friend. A story written at one of its tables. A Christmas market.
And I love being back, on this warm summer evening.