The Fountains of Rome

Rome is known for it's fountains. Nearly all of the most popular tourist sites in this ancient city have fountains. They are found in nearly every piazza and were historically used to supply drinking water to the residents of the city (and the water is still drinkable). Some, like Trevi Fountain, are more elaborate than others, but many of the fountains have been designed my masters of art and architecture: Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Giacomo della Porta, Nicola Salvi, among others. What's even more impressive is that all of the fountains are gravity fed.


There are some seriously impressive fountains to be seen in Rome. Most famous, and crowded, of all of them is Trevi Fountain. Tradition says that you toss a coin in to one day return to Rome, two coins to find love, and three to get married. And, the said coin or coins must be tossed with your back to the fountain, held in your right hand, and thrown over your left shoulder. I'm not sure what happens if you do this wrong, but do you really want to find out? Also, I wonder how many tosses go erroneously wrong.....

Early morning at Trevi. Crowds were significantly less, but they were cleaning out the plethora of coins so they weren't running.

The rocks were mined from the Tiber river for use in the fountain

During our time exploring the city, we also happened upon a number of other spectacular fountains, most of attract far fewer tourists. At the intersection of two roads, near one of the hundreds of churches in the city, were four fountains; one located on each corner. Appropriately, they are called Quattro Fontane, the Four Fountains. These small, obscure fountains, were designed by Muzio Mattei and installed at the end of the 16th century.


Fountain at Quattro Fontana depicting the River Tiber


Another fountain we stumbled upon while exploring the cty depicted Moses parting the Red Sea.  Fontana dell'Acqua Felice is named after one of the ancient Roman aqueducts restored by Pope Sixtus V at the end of the 16th century. It was the second fountain in the city that brought clean drinking water to inhabitants and allowed the surrounding neighborhood to grow. More importantly, in the midst of the Protestant revolution taking place in Europe, this fountain was symbolic that the Catholic church was taking care of the needs of the people of Rome.

Main statue of Moses at Fontana dell'Acqua

One of the four lions at Fontana dell'Acqua

In front of the Spanish Steps is an interesting fountain in the shape of a boat called Fontana della Barcaccia, the Fountain of the Ugly Boat. Coming out of the dead eyes on the front are fresh water fountains from which flow drinkable water. We filled our water bottle here too.  

Evelyn is less than impressed with the Spanish Steps and the Fontana della Barcaccia

Dead eyes on the ship with fresh, drinkable, flowing water

I think that the best part of all these fountains, is that, even today, they all supply fresh, clean, drinking water. The water is monitored and tested every 6 months, in case you were wondering about the safety of drinking water from a public fountain. And they are all free! A rarity in Europe where one usually must purchase a bottle of water in restaurants. With the abundance of fountains in Rome, we were the best hydrated we have ever been while traveling. If you are planning a visit to Rome, especially in the summer when it's hot, make sure you pack a reusable water bottle. We have two that collapse so they don't take up much room when we are packing.

Some are more functional than ornate....

Another more-function-less-frills fountain

Nearly every single piazza in Rome has a fountain and many of them can be found on side streets or at street corners. Some of the fountains at the bigger piazzas, such as Piazza Navona, restrict access to the main fountain, but there will almost always be small fountains that are more easily accessible. Keep an eye out for them and feel free to fill a water bottle that you brought along!