A list and guide to some of the most beautiful and fascinating fountains that you can find in Rome.
Rome’s fountains constantly hit the headlines due to misbehaving foreigners diving naked or partially clothed into their cooling waters. But they continue to add a sense of wonder and a touch of magic to Roman days and nights. Here are some of our favourites for you to visit this summer.
Synonymous with Italian movies after its starring role in Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, this spectacular show of a fountain is perhaps a little smaller than you expected on your first visit, after having all those cinematic scenes and wide-angle lens photographs. But it in no way detracts from the absolute majesty of this Roman treasure. Marvel at the statue of Oceano, pulled by winged horses, as well as the statues of women representing Health and Abundance.
Just don’t do an Anita Ekberg and wade into the waters – you’re more likely to end up with a heavy fine than an Oscar.
Four Rivers Fountain
The beating heart of the baroque Piazza Navona, this 1651 Bernini fountain is truly awe-inspiring. Muscular nude marble giants represent the world’s four main rivers: the Nile, the Ganges, the Danube and the Rio de la Plata, accompanied by a crocodile, snakes, a horse, dolphin, dragon and lion. Alongside the Trevi, this is a sight not to be missed on a visit to Rome, whether it’s your first time in the city or your tenth.
Fontana della Barcaccia
This fontana is its location at the foot of the Spanish Steps. Like the Trevi, it has a cinematic mythology, having been the backdrop in Audrey Hepbur classic, Roman Holiday. But avoid the cliché for a moment and appreciate the craftsmanship and history of Piazza di Spagna’s Barcaccia. Also a Bernini masterpiece, its scale and simplicity compared to grander fountains across the city perhaps make it easier to take for granted. But this boat, nestling beneath the Spanish Steps, in the shadow of the church of the Trinità dei Monti, is no less worthy of a place in our list.
Fontana dell’ Acqua Paola (Il Fontanone)
Film buffs will recognise this marvellous monument from the opening scenes of La Grande Bellezza by director Paolo Sorrentino. Situated near the beautiful hill and stunning Piazza of Gianicolo, it stands alone as if presiding over Rome. This seventeenth century fountain was built in 1612 to mark the end of the Acqua Paola aqueduct, restored by Pope Paul V, was the first major fountain on the right bank of the Tevere river.
Fontana delle Tartarughe
This fountain (ph: Elena Odareeva / Shutterstock.com) is one of our favourites because of its gentle disposition, its legend and its location in a Roman neighbourhood with a heart-breaking history. Found in Piazza Mattei in the Jewish Quarter of the city, the story Turtle Fountain is that Duke Mattei, gambled away his home one night. The news reached his prospective father-in-law, who then refused to give his daughter to this gambler who had lost everything.
The duke promised to build a fountain in front of his house in just one night, in return for the marriage to go ahead. By morning, it was achieved. But the Duke’s trick was that the fountain had already been built years earlier and he simply arranged for it to be moved in front of his palace.
But more interesting than the story is the loveliness of this diminutive fountain, which features bronze turtles leaping from the top of the fountain, held aloft by bronze youths. Giacomo della Porta’s original in the 1580s featured dolphins, but these were replaced with little turtles by Bernini nearly 100 years later.
During the late Renaissance, this fountain had more than decorative qualities – providing water for the whole neighbourhood, which is where all Jewish families in the 1500s were forced to live in the area around Teatro Marcello, creating the Jewish Ghetto.
by Catherine Evans