Thanks to the movies and local lore, the founatins of Rome are destinations in and of themselves. Here are five of our favorites.
Throughout history, Rome has always been connected to water in some shape or form. The Romans were at the forefront of constructing aqueducts, the first form of plumbing, they used thermal baths and they collected water from all over Lazio to use in their city fountains. Originally created for practicality, the fountains quickly became one of Rome’s signature decorations. Here’s a look at five of the most beautiful.
Located in the piazza dei Trevi, the fountain is by far the most famous of those in Rome. You’ll see this fountain in the iconic scene from ‘Dolce Vita‘, a timeless movie by Fellini, and thousands of tourists pass by and take pictures of it everyday. The Trevi Fountain is known throughout the world and dates to the early Renaissance. A sketch from the year 1410 shows that it had three mouths used to bring water from Aqua Virgo, one of the main aqueducts that supplied the city. It’s current appearance dates back to 1762 and is the result of 30 long years of work. The fountain’s theme is the ocean. At the center of this powerful composition of figures is the statue of the metaphorical figure, the Ocean, surrounded by groups of figures that are connected to themes of abundance and fertility. This project by Nicola Salvi is a beautiful example of Baroque composition and various artists of the time worked on it, from Giovan Battista Maini to Pietro Bracci.
Aside from its sculpture, the Trevi Fountain may be even more famous for the popular tradition of throwing coins into it. The legend has it that whoever throws a coin in over his or her shoulder will be destined to return to Rome. Might as well try!
Fontana del Tritone
The Triton Fountain in Piazza Barberini is a work of art by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Created between 1642 and 1643, it shows the mythological creature, Triton, who, in ancient mythology, blows through a seashell, giving him the power to calm or agitate the waters of the ocean by changing the sound made by the shell. Made completely in travertine stone, the Triton Fountain was greatly innovative for its time; a strong male figure is kneeling down on a seashell that is held up by four dolphins on a hollow structure. For the very first time Bernini did not use a central column as the supporting structure of the composition.
This beautiful Bernini fountain is also known as the “Fountain of the playing Triton” because the strong jet of water coming out of the seashell that the Triton is blowing into, creates a sound that could be likened to that of the legendary Triton playing the seashell to control the ocean.
La Fontana dei Dioscuri (Castore and Polluce)
La Fontana dei Dioscuri
This fountain can be found on the Quirinale hill, known as Monte Cavallo, in a wide piazza named for the hill. This area was where the Pope’s residence has been located since the mid-1500s. The statues of the two Dioscuri, more than 5 meters tall, are copies of Greek statues from the 5th century bC.
With rearing horses by their side, they’ve called this square their home for a good many years, since, in 1786, they were permanently placed here, above the great grey-marble fountain and separated from each other by an Egyptian obelisk.
Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi
Fontana Dei Quattro Fiumi
This fountain in Piazza Navona was made between 1648 and 1651 by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The marble giants in this composition each represent the great rivers of the earth. The Nile, the Ganges, the Danube and Rio della Plata are each shown as great big men, physically very strong, with a plasticity that makes their apparent movement fluid and extremely powerful.
As we’ve already seen with the Tritan Fountain, Bernini leaves a hollow structure at the center of the composition and this lets the water interact with the statues, both from the inside and out.
Fountain of Neptune
Fountain of Neptune
This spectacular fountain is also located in Piazza Navona. Groups of sculptures were gradually added onto the original fountain structure that was designed by Giacomo della Porta and it has become one of the most beautiful fountains in Rome.
The Nereids with cupids and sea horses” by Gregorio Zappalà and “Neptune fighting against a squid”” by Antonio della Bitta were put inside the pool of the original fountain in 1878 to make the structure more similar to the other fountains found in Piazza Navona. Where: Piazza Navona, Rome The fountains in Rome are so many that it is hard to actually count them, but there must be over 1000 of them! While strolling amongst the city’s small streets, you’ll discover plenty on your own – these are the most famous and most sculptural, but the city was well served by public water fountains throughout the ages, adding to Rome’s charm.