Travel Tips

The Countless Fountains of Rome: from the Nasoni to the Spanish Steps

Wed 28 Dec 2016

Come to Rome during the summer and you might complain about inefficient public transportation, strangling humidity, torrid heat, and overpriced cappuccinos, but you will never – ever – be able to complain about the absence of cold, running water. One of the many perks about being in Rome is getting fresh water “straight from the tap” whenever you want. Oh, may I add it’s all free?  

The fountains at every street corner – the nasoni – are part of the city just as much as the Colosseum is, and every good Roman knows that bringing an empty bottle to fill is a must of every stroll down the city. But small, corner fountains are not the only ones to fertilize the Roman landscape – there are also other majestic creations of Italian architects and artists that fill the streets of the city with their acrobatic jets and fresh springs.

As for many ancient populations, for the Latins water was considered a gift from the gods. In particular, the Romans believed that the god Fons was to be thanked for the marvel of spring water. This is where the name of fountains stems from – the fontes were first built for utilitarian reasons, but soon became actual works of art.

A countless number of fountains can be found in this city, and a simple stroll around the main piazzas will show you all of their wonders. If you are planning to visit Rome start off in Piazza di Spagna. At the foot of the Spanish Steps you will find the Barcaccia, which roughly translates as “ugly boat.” The reason for this fountain, of a half-sunken ship with water overflowing its bows came about after a major flood in 1598 where Piazza di Spagna was completely flooded up to a meter deep. Once the water withdrew, a boat was left behind in the square. The fountain was built by young Gian Lorenzo Bernini and is a symbol of this piazza as much as the steps that rise above it. This fountain is also one of the few ‘Larger’ fountains in Rome that you can still drink from.

If you walk along Via del Corso you will soon see directions to one of the most famous fountains of the city – the Trevi fountain. This fontana is currently being cleaned up and restored to its original state. Although you can’t drink directly from this fountain, it is a feast for the eyes. The Trevi is the largest Baroque fountain in the city and one of the most famous fountains in the world. Legend has it if you throw a coin over your left shoulder using your right hand you will one day return to the Eternal City!

Not far from Via del Corso also is another grandiose piazza with its three different fountains – Piazza Navona. Originally a stadium, this piazza was transformed into an incredible example of Baroque Roman architecture and art. At the center of this greatly visited square is the famous Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers), built in the 17th century by the same Bernini that built the Barcaccia. The fountain depicts the four rivers of the Nile, the Danube, the Ganges, and the Rìo de la Plata, each representing the four continents through which papal authority used to be spread. The Fontana del Moro and the Fontana di Nettuno are then placed respectively at the southern and northern ends of the piazza, constituting meeting points for tourists, natives, and street artists alike.

You can’t come to Rome and not visit one of the symbols of the city. The Fontanone is just as famous in tours of Rome as it is in popular culture – artists have painted it, singers have sung it, actors have performed for it. The Fontana dell’Acqua Paola is located on the peak of the Gianicolo hill and represents the ending point of the aqueduct of the Acqua Paola.

All these stunning creations of water, travertine, and marble can be enjoyed on our "Stroll of the Artists" tour – you will need more than a lifetime to visit all the water sources that the city has to offer, so start by checking off your list the most famous ones. Indulge in the calming sound of the running water and treat your eyes to the gorgeous encounter of utility and art.

– By Francesca Mirabile –

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