The Trevi Fountain Rome may be one of the Eternal City's most iconic landmarks - and with good reason!
It's simply breath-taking to come upon this little plaza and see all at once the beautifully carved marble of the god Oceanus and his water horses, bursting out of the huge blue basin of clear water.
The Trevi Fountain has just undergone a nearly 2-year restoration. It was officially "opened" on November 3, 2015. I was there for that but so was a large crowd. Here she is at dawn on November 5, brand new, and nobody around but me and some seagulls.
Here’s what you should know about the Trevi Fountain (Fontana di Trevi):
The Trevi Fountain you see today in Rome took over 100 years, and several architects, to build. This is not because it was that complicated, but because it had stops and starts, due to budget constraints and changes in popes and thus architects over the years. (The popes were the ones who chose who got to design and build what monument or building, often holding contests and then picking their favorite design, or, in some cases, their favorite artist.)
The first pope to start thinking about what would become the fountain we see today was Pope Urban VIII, who was a very big fan of Gian Lorenzo Bernini. In 1629, he asked Bernini to draw some sketches for the new fountain, but due to lack of funds, the project was not completed. (However, you can see Bernini's influence in the final design: a mix of nature and architecture, a lot like his Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi in Piazza Navona.)
About 100 years later, Pope Clement XII started a contest to select a new architect for the fountain, and Nicola Salvi won. He used some of Bernini's original designs, and chose to make a monument that represented the origins of the fountain. Nicola (Niccolò) Salvi is the architect most credited with the current design of the Trevi Fountain, although he died when it was only half-way finished, so he also did not see its completion.
The last architect to put the final touches on the fountain was Giuseppe Pannini. The Trevi Fountain was finally completed in 1762, even though it was already a working fountain long before then.
It is curious to be looking up at the Trevi Fountain and sometimes see silhouettes of people in the windows on either side of the fountain. One wonders, how did those people get in there?
Originally the palazzo belonged to the Duke of Conti, who came from a town not far from Rome called Poli. (Even today the building is called Palazzo Poli.) The area called "Dante Hall", which now overlooks the Trevi Fountain, was home to an enormous and valuable library and art collections, and eventually was used to hold lavish parties for Rome's uppercrust society. The palazzo passed through several wealthy families but eventually it became property of the city of Rome. Today it houses the National Institute for Graphic Art.
Romans love their superstitions. A well-known one goes like this: if you throw a coin with your right hand, over your left shoulder, into the Trevi Fountain, then you will be guaranteed to return to Rome one day. (And supposedly, tossing in two coins means you will fall in love AND return to Rome.)
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About 3000 Euros worth of coins are tossed into the Trevi Fountain in Rome every day.
People used to try to steal the coins out of the fountain, but they have really cracked down and now it's next to impossible. The fines are also quite hefty. And, you'll be glad to know those coins are put to excellent use: The fountain is cleaned out once a week, and the money given to the Italian charity, Caritas, which spends the Trevi Fountain money to fund a low-cost grocery store for the needy.
When you come upon the square where the Trevi Fountain is, you'll see that it's not so big. In fact, the fountain seems to take up most of it! However, the square is an unusual shape, like a kind of theater, allowing a lot of people at once to get a very good look at this gorgeous fountain from all angles.
In fact, the placement of the fountain is such that it would have been visible from the Quirinale Palace up on the hill above it, for the pope (who lived there at the time) to be able to see it.
But...it's often so crowded it's hard to get a good photo, or a great view to yourself. There is no secret to seeing this fountain with hardly any crowd:
The main figure in the centre of the Trevi Fountain is the god Oceanus (not Neptune as many think. Neptune almost always carries a triton, and has a dolphin nearby.) Oceanus represents a huge river that flows all around the earth, and from which all other bodies of water are formed.
There are two horses (actually they are called "hippocamps", from Greek mythology, and are really half horse, half fish.) One horse seems quite riled and strong, and the other docile and calm. These represent the moods of the seas.
There are two statues on either side of Oceanus: On the left is Abundance, represented by the basket of fruit she is holding, and on the right, is Salubrity, or health, symbolised by the laurel wreath around her head (Apollo's plant), and the snake wrapped around her legs (from Greek mythology.)
The general Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa (remember the guy who built the Pantheon?) constructed an aqueduct in 19 BC, to help bring water to the thermal baths near the Pantheon, at Campus Martius. Even then, the end of the aqueduct had a little fountain, but it was where the church of Saint Ignatius stands today.
The aqueduct was called Acqueduct Vergine, meaning "Virgin Aqueduct", named for a young woman who showed some Roman soldiers where the spring was.
This aqueduct was the source of water for the Romans for over 400 years, until the Ostrogoths sacked the city in the 500's and destroyed all the fountains and much more. For a long time, the Romans were reduced to using water from the Tiber river. Ick.
In the early Renaissance, the popes began restoring the fountains where the aqueducts came out, all around Rome. Several popes had different fountains designed and built on this spot, until the fountain you see today was built.
Just a stone's throw away from the Trevi Fountain Rome, you can visit the original site of the source of the water that fills the Trevi Fountain, the "Acqua Vergine", or Virgin Water Aqueduct. There are remains of ancient Roman houses there, along with other Roman artefacts.
The ruins were found recently when they were renovating a movie theater (ex Cinema Trevi) on this spot, and the site is now open to the public. "La Città dell'Acqua", which means "city of water", is on vicolo del Puntarello 25.
Click here to visit the official website of this archeological site, for entry fees and hours. By the way, the "Città dell'Acqua" is also one of the sites eligible for free or discounted entry with the Roma Pass.
No vehicles are allowed onto the square where the Trevi Fountain is. But you can get close. The OpenBus tours all have a stop nearby and you can walk there.
If coming by Metro, take the red line A to the Barberini metro stop. Once you get out of the metro, go downhill, taking via degli Avignonesi straight to via in Arcione and finally to via del Lavatore. As you walk along via del Lavatore, approaching the fountain, you will hear the sounds of the water (and usually the crowds.)
A lot of buses also stop on via del Tritone, the large street behind Palazzo Poli, just one block away from the Trevi Fountain. Buses include: 52, 53, 62, 63, 71, 83, 85, 160, 175, and 492. The stop is called "TRITONE/FONTANA DI TREVI."
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