Rome’s most famous square, Piazza Navona ★★★, is a gorgeous baroque gem, lined with cafes and restaurants, and often crowded with tourists, street artists, and performers by day and night. Its long, thin shape follows the contours of the old Roman Stadium of Domitian, where chariot races once took place, still a ruin until a mid-17th-century makeover by Pope Innocent X. The twin-towered facade of 17th-century Sant’Agnese in Agone lies on the piazza’s western side, while the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers) ★★★ opposite is one of three great fountains in the square, this one a creation of Bernini, topped with an Egyptian obelisk. The four stone personifications below symbolize the world’s greatest rivers: the Ganges, Danube, River Plate, and Nile. It’s fun to try to figure out which is which. (Hint: The figure with the shroud on its head is the Nile, so represented because the river’s source was unknown at the time.) At the south end is the Fontana del Moro (Fountain of the Moor), also by Bernini; the Fontana di Nettuno (Fountain of Neptune) is a 19th-century addition.
Art lovers should make the short walk from the piazza to Santa Maria della Pace ★★ on Arco della Pace, a 15th-century church given the usual baroque makeover by Pietro da Cortona in the 1660s. The real gems are inside, beginning with Raphael’s “Four Sibyls” ★★ fresco, above the arch of the Capella Chigi, and the Chiostro del Bramante (Bramante cloister) ★, built between 1500 and 1504, and the first work of the Renaissance master in the city. The church is normally open on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday from 9am to noon, while the cloister opens Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 8pm. Admission to the cloister, which hosts temporary art exhibitions, costs 10€.