LOOKING LIKE creatures from another planet, street entertainers rest near Rome’s Piazza Navona, the beguiling historic square in the heart of the Italian capital.

Graced with fountains, rimmed by elegant, centuries-old buildings and a towering church, Piazza Navona lures both locals and tourists (who sometimes get massively overcharged at its ice-cream shops and cafes).

Year-round, a posse of street entertainers, their clothes and bodies painted a uniform silver, do mime routines or pose as “living statues” in the piazza. Sometimes they are even costumed as the Statue of Liberty to please the American tourists.

But around Christmas, a street fair fills the oval-shaped piazza. Outdoor stalls are crowded with Christmas decorations, candy, CDs and more. Skinny guys, dressed as Santa or the flute-playing shepherds who once came down to the city from the hills, wander around. It’s a season of tough competition for Roman street entertainers.

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Kristin R. Jackson is The Seattle Times NWTraveler editor. Contact her at kjackson@seattletimes.com.