My favorite fountains in Rome, true pieces of art
I was recently in Rome and one evening, looking at the shots of the day, I realised I had a lot of pictures of statues, that I don’t normally take interest in. Looking a bit longer I also noticed that they were all statues of fountains.
It looks like fountains are one of the aspects of Rome that I like. In fact, if you think of it, they are true pieces of art, designed by important artists.
Here are some of my favorites I found around Rome.
Fountain of the Triton, piazza Barberini
I fell in love with the Tritone the first time I saw it, more than 20 years ago. It depicts a Triton, a minor sea god of Greco-Roman myths, and it is located in Piazza Barberini, not far from Trevi fountain. Its masculinity and the posture always attract me. This fountain and statue were made in travertine in 1642-43 by baroque sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini, on commission by Pope Urban VIII.
In a corner of the same square there’s another fountain, less impressive but still curious. It’s the Fountain of the Bees, requested by the same pope as the Triton fountain, the bees representing the family of the pope. It was used to water the horses.
Fountains of Piazza Navona
Piazza Navona is one of the most beautiful squares in Rome. It’s known worldwide for its architecture, the palaces around it and in particular the three fountains. They are imposing and impressive.
The first fountain you see when entering the square from the Southern side, coming from Largo Argentina, is the Moor Fountain (Fontana del Moro), representing a Moor surrounded by four Tritons spilling water. Tritons and dolphin were in the original design by Giacomo della Porta, dating 1575, the statue of the Moor was added almost 80 years later, and it was sculpted by Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
Probably my favorite of the three fountains in Piazza Navona is the middle one, the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers, Danube, Ganges, Nile and Rio de la Plata, representing four continents). It was Bernini again who sculpted it between 1648 and 1651, commissioned by Pope Innocent X.
Some curiosities about this fountain: to get the commission Bernini gave as a gift a copy in silver of the fountain to the pope’s sister-in-law; so he got the commission, stealing it to his life-long rival Borromini. The fountain was so expensive that the pope had to rise the price of the bread, which didn’t make the people happy of course.
Fountains at Pincio and Parco di Villa Borghese
Every time I visit Rome I go to Pincio, the terrace above Piazza del Popolo. It has one of my favorite views of Rome. While I was there the last time I saw this statue that caught my eye. It’s in a fountain, surrounded by papyrus, and it is called “Moses” because it depicts a woman reaching out to a baby in a basket, like Moses. The baby can be barely seen, through the papyrus, but I loved this green encircling the beautiful lady.
A little further, closer to Villa Borghese, I found the fountain of marine horses, embellishing this incredible park. It dates back to the end of the XVIII Century.
The Turtles Fountain
The Fontana delle Tartarughe (Turtles Fountain) is in Piazza Mattei, in the Jewish ghetto.
According to legend the fountain was built by Duke Mattei in one night to impress his future father-in-law, that saw the fountain one morning from a window that was later walled to prevent other people from enjoying the same view. Truth is, the fountain was built in 1588, while the Mattei Palace was built in 1616.
Trevi Fountain and Barcaccia
There are two more fountains that are very beautiful (and probably the most famous in Rome), Trevi fountain and the Barcaccia (Fountain of the Boat) at the Spanish Steps, but they are always so crowded that I can’t really enjoy them much.
Constructions at the Trevi fountain started in 1732 with Nicola Salvi, and were finished in 1762 by Giuseppe Pannini. It is well remembered for the scene of Anita Ekberg in “La Dolce Vita”, the movie from 1960 directed by Federico Fellini. Today you can’t step into the fountain, but you can toss a coin (turning your back to it), in the hope to come back to Rome. Coins should go to a local charity, but I’ve seen people stealing them late in the night (a few years ago, I don’t know if it still happens).
The Barcaccia was commissioned by Pope Urban VIII to Pietro Bernini in 1623, which built it probably with the help of his son Gian Lorenzo. The fountain is built slightly below street level because of the low pressure of water in this location.
There’s another fountain that I liked, a bit out of the town center, at the Rome Cavalieri Waldorf Astoria. It’s a pretty fountain with three cute bronze dolphins and a nice jet of water. Unfortunately I couldn’t find any information on this.
We have to thank the popes (and their riches), if we can enjoy these beauties. In particular Pope Urban VIII, that wanted to erect a fountain in every major square of Rome. I visited all these fountains in a day (except for the last one), during a 20 km walk itinerary that I like to do every time I am in Rome.