The Most Iconic Fountains In Rome And How To Visit Them

Do you know we have over 2,000 fountains in Rome?

Yes! You read that right.

piazza navona and the fountain of neptuneThere are thousands of fountains big and small across the Eternal City, like this fountain of Neptune in Piazza Navona.

All about Fountains of Rome - the most famous, beautiful, iconic, and quirky

Rome boasts many famous fountains such as the Four Rivers Fountain (Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi) in Piazza Navona and iconic fountains such as the one and only Trevi Fountain.

There are also small drinking fountains all over the city.

Read on to find out why we have so many beautiful fountains in Rome, and where you can see the best ones!

On this page, you'll find:

A short history of water fountains in Rome Italy

Rome, Italy is known for its many wonderful fountains, which can be found throughout the Eternal City.

The main reason we have so many fountains goes back to Ancient Rome: Aqueducts.

In Ancient Rome, eleven Roman aqueducts brought fresh cool water into the city from the mountains around Rome.

Aqueduct parkIn the Aqueduct Park on the outskirts of the city you'll find the huge remains of the system that brought fresh clean water to Rome for centuries

The water flowing through these aqueducts provided fresh water for the people to use in their daily life, but also to feed decorative fountains and huge bath complexes.

In the fading days of the Roman Empire in the 5th and 6th centuries, the aqueducts were destroyed and this water supply was cut off.

For centuries, Roman citizens had only the Tiber river as their water source for everything from cooking to bathing.

tiber river at sunsetToday, the Tiber river can be beautiful, like when the sun sets over Saint Peter's Basilica. But for about a thousand-year stretch between the 6th and 16th centuries, this was pretty much the only source of clean water for the Romans. Yuck.

However, from the early Renaissance onward, these Roman aqueducts were repaired and their termini (endpoints) restored.

The Renaissance and subsequent Baroque era were times of creation, and popes vied to leave their legacies in as many places as they could.

This sometimes meant having fountains made in their name which is why you will find so many beautiful fountains in the Italian capital.

As you look at the Roman fountains, you will often find a papal symbol with a shield that represents the pope responsible for having that fountain designed and built.

In many cases, several popes were involved and so you will see more than one papal shield.

pantheon fountain papal shieldThe fountain in front of the Pantheon bears the papal shield of Pope Clement XI (r. 1700-21).

The most beautiful and famous fountains in Rome

Walking around the Eternal City you are likely to come upon some of the most famous, iconic fountains in Rome.

While the Trevi Fountain is a destination all by itself, many of the other fountains are located at other must-see sites like the Pantheon, Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona and the Vatican.

Trevi Fountain – Fontana di Trevi

One of the most famous landmarks in Rome, and certainly the most famous of the Roman fountains, the Trevi Fountain or Fontana di Trevi has a history dating back several centuries.

trevi fountain at dawnThe Trevi Fountain is one of Rome's most iconic sights

The Trevi Fountain represents a high point in the Baroque movement.

It is located in the Piazza di Trevi, which is the junction of three roads where a Roman aqueduct once supplied water to the city. (In Latin, "tre vie" means 3 streets.)

The Rome Trevi Fountain project initially started in 1629, but it was the victim of budget problems and varying levels of interest from pope to pope.

This meant that the project stalled and was restarted several times before Italian architect Nicola Salvi finally designed the current version in the 18th century.

The Baroque design of the Fontana di Trevi is spectacular and stands 86ft/26m high, featuring a wealth of detail.

The Trevi Fountain consists of a triumphal arch with mythical and allegorical figures, natural rock formations and gushing fountains.

A tourist favorite, the tradition of throwing coins into the fountain has existed for years.

To guarantee your return to Rome you must throw your coin with your back to the fountain!

World famous and worthy of a visit in its own right, this Roman fountain is a must-see landmark.

Fontana della Barcaccia at the Spanish Steps

The Fontana della Barcaccia ('Fountain of the Ugly Boat') is a spectacular (and if I may say mis-named) fountain in Piazza di Spagna at the base of one of Rome's most famous landmarks, the Spanish Steps.

barcaccia fountain in piazza di spagnaThe Barcaccia fountain is sometimes overshadowed by the famous steps, but it deserves its own admiration!

This Baroque fountain makes for a great backdrop in your photos of Piazza di Spagna, with the design of a half-sunken boat inspired by a legend of the river Tiber flooding and leaving a small boat in the center of the piazza.

The architect for this wonderfully sculptural fountain was Pietro Bernini, who worked on it with his more famous son Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

The fountain predates its more famous neighbouring landmark.

It was completed in 1629, almost a century before the idea for the Spanish Steps was even conceived!

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Fontana del Tritone – Triton Fountain in Piazza Barberini

The Fontana del Tritone can be found in Piazza Barberini, named for Pope Urban VIII, whose family name was Barberini, and whose palazzo is just behind this piazza.

Pope Urban VIII famously sought to erect a fountain in each of Rome's piazzas, of which this stunning example is one.

tritone fountain in piazza barberiniTake a look at the papal crest of the Triton Fountain in Piazza Barberini - here you can clearly see the 3 bees that were the symbol of the Barberini pope's family.

The Triton Fountain depicts the sea-god Triton on top of a group of four dolphins.

The Fontana del Tritone is not typical of city fountains and is closer in design to those found in villa garden settings, which was a fresh approach for the time.

Though now surrounded by taller buildings than when it was erected in 1643, the Triton Fountain still makes a spectacular impact.

This is testament to the design skills of its creator, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, one of Rome's most famous Baroque sculptors, whose name appears a lot on this page!

Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi – Fountain of the Four Rivers in Piazza Navona

four rivers fountainThe Four Rivers fountain in the heart of Piazza Navona is an undoubted show stopper!

Like so many of Rome's famous fountains, the Fountain of the Four Rivers in Piazza Navona is the work of Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

In fact, he designed two out of the three fountains found in Piazza Navona.

An unusual design, the fountain has a base featuring four river gods and a copy of an Egyptian obelisk above them.

Finished in 1651, the fountain was commissioned by Pope Innocent X, whose family palace faced this attractive piazza (it is today the Brazilian embassy.)

The spectacle provided by adding the obelisk made the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi a rather revolutionary design when unveiled, the combination of Baroque architecture and ancient Egyptian being unique.

Today, the fountain is undoubtedly one of Rome's most beautiful and most famous.

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Fountains of St Peter's Square

The two beautiful fountains in St Peter's Square in the Vatican City are ornamental sculptures designed to complement St Peter's Basilica, one of the most famous buildings in the world.

The famous Maderno Fountain by Carlo Maderno dates from the early 1600's, while the later Bernini Fountain was completed in 1677.

The fountains provide excellent photo opportunities with the basilica as a backdrop.

They are visited by thousands of tourists who flock to Vatican City to experience this stunning and unique location.

fountain in st peter's squareThe fountains in St Peter's Square are designed to complement the Colonnade and huge basilica

Fontana dell'Acqua Paola - Il Fontanone on the Gianicolo Hill

fontanone fountainThe huge fountain provides welcome relief for those people walking up the Gianicolo hill

The magnificent Fontana dell'Acqua Paola is one of the most jaw-dropping fountains in Rome and one of my favorites.

Also known as Il Fontanone (the Big One), it marks the end of the Aqua Paola Aqueduct, restored by Pope Paul V.

It's also the backdrop for the first scene of the Oscar-winning movie "The Great Beauty", La Grande Bellezza by Paolo Fiorentino, a movie I highly recommend for anyone who loves Rome.

Located on the Janiculum Hill, the Fontana dell'Acqua Paola was the first fountain to be built on that side of the River Tiber to provide clean water for residents.

Designed by Giovanni Fontana, the fountain is a spectacular construction built from marble rescued from the ruins of a nearby Roman temple.

It features a poetic inscription dedicated to Pope Paul V (Borghese.)

The 3- arched design with large basin in front formed the inspiration for arguably Rome's most famous fountain, the Trevi Fountain.

Fontana del Pantheon – Fountain of the Pantheon

An unusual design for a Rome fountain, the Fontana del Pantheon features a fascinating Egyptian obelisk as its focal point and stands proudly in front of the Roman Pantheon.

pantheon with fountain and obeliskThe ornamental fountain in front of the ancient Roman temple turned Christian church, the Pantheon.

While the original fountain was finished in 1575, the version we see now was commissioned by Pope Clement X1 in 1711, who had the four dolphins as the base supporting the obelisk added.

The marble dolphins are not the originals, which can be seen in the Museum of Rome, but copies added in 1886.

The combination of the fountain in Piazza della Rotonda with the Pantheon makes for a spectacular scene.

Fontana Delle Naiadi – Fountain of the Water Nymphs, Piazza della Repubblica

piazza della repubblica fountainThe large fountain in the center of Piazza Repubblica is simply stunning! PS - This particular photo was taken one January when the fountain froze! Can you see the icicles?

A later example of a Rome fountain, the Fountain of the Water Nymphs was built in 1888, with the four bronze sculptures of the nymphs or Naiads of Roman legend added in 1901.

The nymphs are accompanied by the Roman God Glaucus, a 1912 addition, and the fountain occupies a central spot in Piazza della Repubblica near Termini train station.

The Fontana Delle Naiadi is perhaps best visited after sunset when it is spectacularly illuminated with LED lights.

For lovers of the Art Nouveau movement, this famous fountain is a must and is considered the finest of its form in Rome.

Quirky and charming fountains in Rome

Some of these smaller fountains could also be considered iconic, as they are so often photographed and well-loved by Romans and tourists alike.

While you may not come across these fountains naturally, they are worth looking out for as they are all beautiful in their own way, and they will add to your understanding of Rome and its history.

Fontana delle Tartarughe (Turtle Fountain), Piazza Mattei

turtle fountain in winterThe Turtle fountain is small but charming

Art historians have proposed many theories about the design of the Fontana della Tartarughe, yet none are certain.

We do know that this charming turtle fountain was built in the 1580's, with the four famous turtles being added some 80 years later, probably designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

The fountain occupies a prime spot in Piazza Mattei in the Jewish Ghetto, not far from Campo dei Fiori.

It is forever linked with a legend surrounding a bankrupt Duke who supposedly built the fountain overnight to impress the father of his desired bride.

With a wonderfully evocative design, while not one of the city's most famous fountains, Fontana della Tartarughe is worth the visit to Piazza Mattei as a prime example of monumental fountain sculpture.

Fontana delle Api (Fountain of the Bees), Piazza Barberini

A tourist favorite thanks to the quirky design, Gian Lorenzo Bernini's Fountain of the Bees is among the more interesting of his sculptures.

Featuring a giant clamshell with three bees as the fountain heads, it was completed in 1644.

bernini clamshell bee fountainAnother Bernini fountain for Pope Urban VIII features the Barberini bees, which is why this fountain is called Fountain of the Bees.

This fountain was built to provide a watering trough for horses as opposed to the usual clean water service for residents, and includes an inscription citing Pope Urban VIII, who commissioned the fountain.

Fountain of the Frogs (Fontana delle Rane), Piazza Mincio

Built in 1924 and located centrally in the Piazza Mincio, the Fontana Delle Rane takes its name from the 12 ornamental frogs that act as the fountainhead.

fountain of the frogsThe Fontana delle Rane, or Fountain of the Frogs is one of the centerpieces of the whimsical Coppedè neighborhood.

Recently restored, a few details mark this fountain as a tribute to the great sculptor Bernini, who built so many other of Rome's famous fountains.

Note the bees, a direct reference to Bernini's Fountain of the Bees, and the frogs on the upper level that are placed similarly to the turtles he for the Fountain of the Turtles.

The fountain is much-photographed thanks to its ornate details.

Fontana del Nettuno – Fountain of Neptune, Piazza Navona

One of three fountains in the Piazza Navona, the Fontana del Nettuno is one of Rome's most evocative.

Featuring a dramatic sculpture of the god Neptune, it was built in 1574 by Giacomo della Porta, although without the figures we see today.

piazza navona nettuno fountainThe Fontana del Nettuno is at one end of Piazza Navona

The statue of Neptune, the Roman God of the sea, was added in 1878 and sees him fighting with an octopus.

The nymphs, cupids, and other creatures that adorn the wide basin represent popular mythology and add to the drama of the Neptune Fountain.

La Fontana del Moro – Fountain of the Moor, Piazza Navona

On the other side of Piazza Navona is the Fountain of the Moor, or La Fontana del Moro, which features a Moor or African as its main focus.

Despite its nickname, the statue is also often said to represent the sea god Neptune (who features in the fountain on the opposite side of the same square).

piazza navona with moor fountainThe Il Moro fountain in Piazza Navona

Both the fountains in the square are from the hand of the same designer and sculptor, Giacomo della Porta, and the similarities are striking.

Based on a design by Giacomo della Porta from 1575, the Fontana del Moro initially featured just the dolphins and the four Tritons when it was first sculpted (although the originals have been replaced with copies).

The Moor was added in 1653 according to a new design by Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

Fontana di Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere

The fountain in Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere is widely believed to be the oldest of Rome's many fountains.

santa maria in trastevereThe fountain in Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere is based on the oldest fountain Rome.

Featuring many additions since its construction, the date of origin remains unknown, though historians believe a fountain has sat on this spot since the 8th century.

The fountain we see today was designed by Renaissance architect Donato Bramante.

The fountain was later embellished by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Carlo Fontana.

The backdrop of the Church of Santa Maria in Trastevere makes a beautiful scene and is a favorite space for locals and tourists alike to gather, especially at sunset.

The fountain was rebuilt completely in 1930.

Fontana Della Navicella - Fountain of the Small Boat on the Celio Hill

One of Rome's lesser-known fountains is the Fountain of the Small Boat, called the Navicella, in the pretty Piazza della Navicella.

navicella fountainThis interesting small fountain combines ancient Roman ruins with a more modern water system

Although the relatively small fountain was erected as late as 1931, the boat sculpture is an ancient Roman artefact and is of interest historically.

The boat is an homage to the Roman sailors who lived in this neighborhood.

These were the men who, among other duties, managed the huge awnings that covered the Colosseum in inclement weather or when it was hot.

The plain and understated design is unusual among Rome's fountains, yet this unique attribute makes the Fountain of the Small Boat so appealing.

Take note of the basin if you can. There's a lovely fish mosaic at the bottom.

Fontana del Mascherone - Fountain of the Big Mask

La Fontana del Mascherone, or Big Mask Fountain is worth a visit especially because it's on the beautiful via Giulia in the Campo dei Fiori neighborhood.

I actually find this fountain a little jarring but many people love it.

mascherone fountainThe Mascherone fountain on via Giulia is a quirky fountain that many people love. It's not a drinking fountain and you'll note it has a little barrier in front of it.

Legend says that on certain holidays in the 17th and 18th centuries, wine spouted from the fountain instead of water.

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Rome fountains you can drink from

In 1870, the year Italy became a unified country, the city of Rome began installing drinking fountains around Rome.

They are called "fontanelle", which means little fountains, but their more endearing nickname is "nasoni", plural for "nasone", which means big nose.

wolf head nasoni spoutOne of the last remaining animal water spouts in the city!

Most of these little fountains look like fire hydrants with a spout, but some of them have interesting animal-shaped spouts, sometimes in the form of a dragon or wolf.

Only 3 fontanelle in Rome still have their original dragon-head spouts:

  • The nasone at Piazza della Rotonda, which still has 2 working dragon-head spouts
  • The nasone on Via San Teodoro, which has 3 dragon head spouts, of which 2 still work
  • The nasone on Via della Cordonata, which has 3 functioning dragon head spouts.
nasone with birdHumans are not the only ones who enjoy Rome's fresh, clean drinking water from the many "nasoni" all around the city.

Besides these nasoni, there is another set of drinking fountains in Rome, all designed by Roman architect Pietro Lombardi in 1927.

These little fountains were meant to represent their respective rione, or neighborhood.

Some of the more interesting nasoni and Pietro Lombardi fountains in Rome include:

Fontana del Facchino - Fountain of The Porter

The fascinating Fountain of the Porter is one of six 'talking statues' found in Rome.

facchino fountain and talking statueI love this little fountain hidden away on a side street.

Roman citizens since the sixteenth century posted anonymous messages at these 'talking statues' which are often satirical, humorous and critical in tone.

Unsurprisingly the targets of these messages were commonly the rulers of the capital.

The Fontana del Facchino is one of several 'talking fountains' in the city.

The Porter in this example, which was installed initially not far away from where it stands now, is a water carrier, complete with a barrel filled from the Tiber.

This was a popular profession before the popes began restoring the aqueducts in the 16th century.

The face of the man is disfigured because some people believed the statue was of Martin Luther and threw stones at it.

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Fontana dei Libri – Fountain of the Books

The curious and often overlooked Fontana dei Libri is one of nine fountains commissioned to architect Pietro Lombardi in the 1920's to represent Rome's rioni, or districts.

(There was initially a 10th fountain, but it was destroyed in WWII.)

fountain of the booksThe Fountain of the Books represents Saint Eustace, for whom this district is named.

The design features two opposing sets of books that act as the fountain heads and is set within a wall in a narrow traffic-free street.

The books represent the university La Sapienza, which is the building it's attached to, and the deer represents Saint Eustace, a Christian martyr for whom this district is named.

This is without a doubt one of my favorite drinking fountains in Rome!

Fontana Degli Artisti - Fountain of the Artists

One of the nine fountains designed by Pietro Lombardi to represent the nine districts of Rome, the curious Fountain of the Artists can be found in Via Margutta, a street famous for artists and where intellectuals would meet.

fountain of the masksThis lovely fountain also has low-lying basins that are perfect for dogs to drink from.

The artist's easels form the fountain's base, with two faces representing the artist as the fountain heads.

Note that one face is smiling, the other distinctly not.

These are typical theater masks.

Fontana delle Botte - Fountain of the Barrels

The unusual and interesting Fountain of the Barrelsis another of the Lombardi rione fountains and was made in 1927 like the others.

It is a monument to the porters who would unload barrels of wine from ships docked at the nearby Porto di Ripeta, which was demolished in the late 19th century.

fontana delle botteMany of the Lombardi fountains can be found on small side streets, like this one on via della Cisterna in Trastevere.

The fountain features a large barrel as the base and is set into an alcove of a building.

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Monumental fountains of Rome

A monumental fountain is a fountain at the city end of an aqueduct, which is called the terminus.

You may not have realized it but we have already mentioned two monumental fountains in Rome: the Trevi Fountain and the Fountain of Acqua Paola.

There is one more:

Fontana dell'Acqua Felice – Fountain of Moses

The large and imposing Fountain of Moses was completed in 1588, commissioned by Pope Sixtus V.

It is an unusual design with a figure of Moses in the center, flanked with two interesting and detailed sculpted reliefs.

felice fountain with mosesThe Fountain of Moses is one of three monumental fountains in Rome.

A inscription on top tells of the building of the Acqua Felice (Felice was Pope Sixtus' name) aqueduct which used parts of three ancient aqueducts to transport clean water to the fountain.

It was designed by prominent architect Domenico Fontana, who worked primarily in Rome around this time and was the favorite architect of the pope.

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