The Trevi Fountain: A Brief History

Rome is a spectacular city boasting a rich history that is filled with countless attractions such as the Colosseum, the Pantheon, and St Peter’s Basilica. There is, however, one more attraction without which no trip to Rome will be complete: The Trevi Fountain. While it is quite obvious why the Trevi Fountain is known as one of the most beautiful in the world, the history behind the exquisite fountain is equally as captivating as its appearance.

How did the fountain get its name?

The fountain is located at the junction of three roads and, more impressively, at the end point of the Aqua Vergine, one of the earliest aqueducts in Rome. Due to its location, the fountain received a rather literal name Fontana de Trevi which translates to Three Street Fountain. It was further believed that the name was derived from the word ‘trivium’ which means ‘three streets’ in Latin. Today, the fountain is simply known as the Trevi Fountain, both among locals and international visitors alike.

Designing and constructing the Trevi Fountain

While a fountain was in existence at the location of the Trevi Fountain since ancient times, it was only in 1629 that it started to take on its current grand form. During that year, Pope Urban VIII called on artist and architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini to add more drama to the current design. The requested renovations were never completed, however, as the project was entirely abandoned when the Pope passed away. It was only in 1730, when Pope Clement XII organized a contest with a very special prize that talk of an upgraded fountain commenced once again. The contest was so special because the winner would be commissioned to redesign Trevi Fountain.

The Winner didn’t take it all

Although Alessandro Galilei won the contest, he never worked on the fountain due to a public outcry over a Florentine being chosen instead of a Roman. The prize eventually went to the contestant who came in second place – Nicola Salvi. Salvi soon began designing the upgraded fountain around the theme of ‘Taming of the Waters’ and construction officially commenced in 1732. The work was completed in 1762 by Giuseppe Pannini as Salvi died in 1751.

The Trevi uses an enormous amount of water

Standing 25 metres tall and nearly 20 metres wide with water pumping out of a multitude of sources into a large pool, it is not surprising that the fountain uses in excess of 2,824,800 cubic feet of water every single day. Thankfully, the water is recycled unlike in the old days when it simply ended up going to waste. Although the water in the fountain is kept crystal clean, for the most part, it did briefly wear a different color back in 2007. A vandal dumped a red substance into the fountain that turned the water a bright red. Luckily the water was drained and replaces fast enough and no damage was caused to the monument.

The story of the statues

Like all great artworks, the Trevi Fountain tells a fascinating story with each of its statues conveying a specific message. Right in the centre of the fountain stands the statue of Oceanus underneath a triumphal arch. His chariot is being pulled by two seahorses with very opposing demeanours: one is wild, the other diffident. They represent the very opposing moods of the ocean. To the left of the arch stands the statue of Abundance and to the left, the statue of Health. Towards the top of the fountain stand four more statues symbolizing Abundance of Fruits, Crop Fertility, Products of Autumn, and Joy of Prairie and Gardens.

What happens to all the money thrown into the fountain?

Since the fountain was opened, visitors have tossed coins into the fountain in order to gain favour from the water Gods. Legend also states that a coin thrown into the fountain will ensure a return to Rome. On average, approximately €3,000 is collected from the depths of the fountain every night. The money is donated to a charity known as Caritas which uses it towards many programmes for the more in needed. For obvious reasons, removing money from the fountain is illegal. There was one infamous raider, however, who stole coins from the fountain for nearly 34 years before finally being apprehended in 2002.

The Trevi Fountain has been one of the most popular attractions in the whole of Italy for centuries and will continue to be so for many years to come. With its rich history and astounding design it is bound to leave locals and tourists in awe until the end of time.

General Info

Address Piazza di Trevi, 00187 Roma RM, Italy

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The Trevi Fountain: A Brief History

Piazza di Trevi, 00187 Roma RM, Italy

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Wanted in Rome
Wanted in Rome is a monthly magazine in English for expatriates in Rome established in 1985. The magazine covers Rome news stories that may be of interest to English and Italian speaking residents, and tourists as well. The publication also offers classifieds, photos, information on events, museums, churches, galleries, exhibits, fashion, food, and local travel.
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