Hello Everyone. In preparation for creating our blog we took an online travel writing course. Not only was it a lot of fun but we also learned an immense amount of knowledge. One of the assignments was to write about our favorite place on the planet. For anyone that already knows us, that place had to be somewhere in Italy. Here is what we wrote:
‘My first step onto the smooth cobblestone walkway is the beginning of my journey back in time. The energy flowed up through my limbs, affecting every part of me. Walking down the narrow pathway to the light ahead was a build up of anticipation. The crowd’s voices grew louder, the street peddlers more aggressive and the light brighter. When the opening hits you, it is like awakening from a slumber. Bernini immediately captures your attention, making me grateful to my 10th grade history teacher for instilling a love for the greats. My vision was quickly drawn to the current artists selling their work among the passing crowd. The Church San’t Agnese pulled my focus next begging me to enter. Once inside I thought about how many generations passed through the same threshold and lit a candle in memory of my own ancestors. When I was ready, I reemerged out to the vibrant life and allowed an Italian waiter to persuade me into their restaurant. I took a seat, ordered a bottle of the house wine and watched the Circus Agonalis perform all around me. Pure joy enveloped me as the street performers danced, levitated and juggled their way into my soul. Piazza Navona in Rome, Italy straddles both the past and the present.’
Let us start by giving you a visual of this one of a kind spot. Piazza Navona is a large rectangle that used to host chariot races in ancient times. Today you will not see any horses racing through, nor any vehicles. As a tourist this is great because you can lose yourself in your surroundings without needing to worry about angry locals beeping at you to get out of the way. (Trust me, this has happened to us on more than one occasion.) There are three large fountains in this piazza, centered by the Fountain of Four Rivers sculpted by Bernini. The fountain represents one river from each of the four continents recognized at the time. The fountains are a big draw and you will understand once you are standing next to each of them. The detail and sheer size are something you cannot wrap your mind around. There is a large obelisk in the center of it. It’s a marvel to look at. This is where we would recommend taking a moment to just take it in. How many others have stood in the same exact spot where you are?
The piazza is bordered by large buildings and most notably the ancient Church San’t Agnese. Take a step into this church. You won’t be disappointed. We took a moment to stare at the ceiling. Italians decorated everything. The walls, the floors, the doors and even the ceilings are pieces of artwork. Even if you are not a Christian or devout to your faith, you will appreciate the devotion of the congregation within.
There are several restaurants in the piazza with aggressive waiters calling out to you. We highly recommend sitting down and enjoying the atmosphere, but be careful which restaurant you choose. Some will only allow you to sit and eat dinner and expect you to leave immediately so they can fill the table with new diners. We prefer to sit with a bottle of wine or appetizer and relax before dinner. Not all of the restaurants permitted this, so just continue to walk around and you will find an entertaining waiter anxious for your business. We found one and returned there each evening. On our last evening in Rome, we even had a proper Arrivederci from our waiter.
Also, be aware that the food within the piazza is not the authentic Italian food that you may be hoping for. To get the true authentic Italian dining experience, choose a restaurant a street or two off of the beaten patch. Or ask a local what restaurants they go to. However, if you are in the mood to people watch and just want a snack then by all means stay in the Piazza.
In Italy, life is lived in the piazzas. In the evening, tourists and locals join together to enjoy life. After a day of sightseeing, we loved to relax in this place and take in the vibrancy. This is conveniently located in the Heart of Rome, so it is easy to get to from a majority of your hot spots in the city. Piazza Navona is one of Rome’s most lively piazzas and we can’t wait to go back to it.
This is on our must see list of Italy and not as a box to check off, but rather a place to relax, enjoy and experience the true spirit of Italy. We hope to share with you how travel can be done, not a list of just places, but a list that invokes feelings and memories you will pull years from now.
In a future blog post we will talk about the Heart of Rome walk, which takes you to and through Piazza Navona.
What’s your favorite place on the planet? Tell us in the comment section below.
Thanks for reading, and #neverstopplanning.