Fountains in Rome
One of the great things about Rome is its magnificent fountains and they are everywhere - about 280 on the list. Below is a list of Rome's better-known fountains, when built and by whom and their location.
Due to space limitations, I cannot put pictures of all the fountains on the website but I do have pictures of most of the fountains and a more detailed description of the history. If you are interested, send me an email and I will respond accordingly.
In the Renaissance the popes decided to renew and beautify the city that had been abandoned for a long time by promoting splendid works such as the building of new bridges, the restoration of the ancient aqueducts and above all the creation of public fountains which, in addition to providing a useful service to the population were extremely decorative.
Monumental fountains also began to decorate the gardens and courtyards of the noble palaces, opening the way to the grandiose decorations of the Baroque period. These ornamental structures when simulating natural settings such as grottoes or waterfalls were named "Nymphaeum" to recall the similar architectural creations which the Greeks and the Romans had dedicated to the cult of the Nymphs. The Villa Guilia possesses a delightful Nymphaeum that greatly influenced Palladio when he designed his own Nymphaeum at the Villa Barbaro, at Maser.
Fontana di Trevi
Famous tourist attraction, this is one of the most imposing, spectacular and artistic fountains not only in Rome, but also in the world. When in 1730 Pope Clemente XII decided to substitute the beautiful fountain planned by Leon Battista Alberti in 1453 with a more imposing one, he invited the best artists of the time to present him their plans. The plan chosen was Nicola Salvi's one and the fountain began to be erected in 1735. It was terminated under the papacy of Clemente VIII and inaugurated the 22nd May 1776.
Its dimensions are huge. With its 26 meters of height and 20 meters of wideness, the fountain covers one entire side of Piazza Poli. On the top of it rises the Pope's Coat-of-arms and was carved by Paolo Benaglia, while the balustrade is characterized by four statues symbolizing the four seasons sculpted respectively by Corsini, Ludovisi, Pincellotti, and Queirolo. On the centre there is a big shell-form coach pulled by two sea horses. The two sea horses are driven by two tritons. Here it emerges from the basin a majestic statue representing the ocean.
The sculptor of the whole marble group is Pietro Bracci. On the two sides of the niches there are two big statues of Filippo Valle: the Salubrity on the right one and the Abundance on the left one. Above those two sculptures there is a bas relief representing the legend of Agrippa, according to which the thirsty soldiers of ancient Rome have been salved by virgins who indicated the right place where there was a source of water. This is where, according to legend, was built the aqueduct. But this is the only legend bound to the fountain. Every year, in fact, millions of tourists follow a magic rite in order to see their desires fulfilled. They give their backs to the fountain and throw some coins into the basin, symbol of the ocean. According to tradition this gesture should assure people a pleasant return to the Eternal City.
Another legend tells that the heavy travertine vase placed in front of the barber's shop, ironically similar to a soap-dish, has been realized by Salvi in order to prevent people from the view of the old barber, probably excessively grumpy. The external left side holds the Fountain of the Lovers, a simple rectangular basin that receives water from a small pipe. A lot of people remember this magnificent fountain from the great Fellini's film La Dolce Vita (The Sweet Life). The famous scene where Anita Ekberg stands fully dressed in the cold water of the fountain was shot over a week in winter. Fellini said that Anita stood there without any trouble while Mastroianni had to wear a wetsuit beneath his clothes. Anyway, it's a very inspiring scene, and it's not strange why this beautiful fountain took a lot of credit.
Fontana della Dea Roma - Piazza del Popolo
The fountain, erected in 1823 by Giovanni Ceccarini after the plans of Valadier, is dedicated to the Goddess of Rome. The marble group represents all the legends bound to the origin of the city. The goddess is represented armed of a lance and a helmet. On her right side there are the statues of Tiberio and Aniente while on her left there is the statue of the she-wolf feeding the twins. The travertine basin, as a large shell, collects water from a small cup placed at the base of the monument. The current fountain in Campidoglio was not erected as a fountain but as a superb ornament of the square. When Michelangelo built it in 1536, in fact, there was no water in the square. It arrived only fifty years later.
The magnificent statue of Minerva that Michelangelo had inserted in the central niche of the steps today can be admired in the courtyard of the Capitoline museum. It remained in its original position only ten years. Than it has been replaced by the present one, much smaller, of the goddess Rome triumphans. The statue, raised on three bases, has a marble face and extremities while the drapes are of porphyre. On either sides of the large niche, in the light of the steps, Michelangelo inserted two enormous statues representing the Nile and the Tigris, that originally adorned the thermal baths of Constantine on the Quirinale hills. When Roman imposed changes on the statue. The Tigris became the Tiber and the tiger was substituted by the wolf, placed beside Romolo and Remo. When it has been decided to change the entire monument into a fountain, a plan to which the architect Giacomo della Porta opposed vigorously, it was announced a competition, in 1588, won by Matteo Bartolani of Città del Castello.
Fontana della Piazza - Piazza Campitelli
This elegant small fountain has been erected in 1589 by Giacimo della Porta and carved by Pompilio de Bennedetti. Originally the fountain rose in the centre of the square but in 1679, after the enlargement of the church Santa Maria in Campitelli, it was moved to its present position. The monument in travertine has an octagonal base. The octagonal basin, decorated with the coat-of-arms of four prominent families of the area (Albertoni, Capizucchi, Muti, and Ricci) and with two grotesque masks spouting water, is placed on longer sides alternate with concave ones. Above the basin, supported by a globe-like marble baluster, there is another circular basin with a central jet of water. Pope Gregorio XIII Boncompagni charged Giacomo della Porta to plan and carry out the erection of the elegant fountain that since 1577 can be admired in square Campitelli. The work of the architect, helped by Rocco de Rossi from Fiesole, lasted from 1572 to 1585.
During the restoration of 1830 have been added two group of dolphins with their tails entwined, sculpted by Alessandro Stocchi. The sculpture was lately substituted by a smaller and more modest fountain with a central, elegant spray of water.
Fontana delle Naiadi
This fountain, planned by Alessandro Guerrini and erected in 1888, is the most beautiful one among all the modern fountains of Rome. Originally, around the large circular basin stand four chalk lions, replaced in 1901 by four bronze groups, sculpted by Mario Rutelli, representing all the Nymphs of the water. There is the Lake Nymph with the swan, the River Nymph riding a river monster, the Ocean Nymph, known as "Oceana", on a wild horse (symbol of the breakers), and the Underwater Nymph lying on the back of a dragon.
In the centre there is the "Glauco" group, which has been added in 1912 in substitution of another sculpture and representing the dominion of man over the forces of nature. This sculpture was moved to the gardens in Piazza Vittorio Emanuele because it did not please its purchasers. In 1575 Giacomo della Porta was charged by Pope Gregorio XIII Boncompagni to design a beautiful plan for an elegant fountain to place in the centre of the square. Leonardo Somani carried out the work composed of a multi-linear shell erected on three travertine steps, enriched by four groups of dolphins and masks with a central basin with jests. In 1711 charged Filippo Barignoni to replace the basin with a rock on which was placed the obelisk of Ramses II, six meters tall and decorated at the base with four dolphins carved by Luigi Amici.
Acquapaola's Fountain - Fontana dell'Acqua Paola
This majestic fountain, known as the "fontanone del Gianicolo", was created for Pope Paolo V Borghese (1605-1621) by Giovanni Fontana and Flaminio Ponzio and completed by Carlo Fontana with the enormous white marble basin. The monumental fountain is characterized by five niches, three big ones and two minor ones, lateral, which receive water from the lake Bracciano. Part of the inscriptions carved over the niches is inexact.
It says that the pipes restored were those of the Alseitana, instead of those of Triana. The coat-of-arms and the figures beside it have are the careful work of Buzio. In 1690 Pope Alessandro VIII Ottoboni charged Carlo Fontana to replace the five shells at the base of the hydrants with a magnificent basin. The architect was also charged to open a space in front of the botanical gardens with a central arch. From the square behind you can admire a wonderful panorama of the city.
Fontana del Tritone
This fountain, one of the most beautiful of the city, was built in 1643 by Bernini. Between the dolphins' tails that support the shell on which it rises the Triton crouches, Bernini placed two coat-of-arms of the Barberini family.
The Triton that blows into the shell pushes out a jet of water that, falling on the valves that direct it into the basin below, creates a fascinating choreographic effect. The fountain has been restored successively in 1932 and 1990.
The harmonious fountain placed in Piazza d'Aracoeli, at the foot of The Campidoglio, is a creation of Giacomo della Porta, who realized it during the pontificate of Pope Sisto VI Peretti, in 1589. The fountain is characterized by four beautiful puttos, placed on its top, pouring water from the amphorae they keep in their hands. The original basin, large and oval, has been replaced by the present one, circular, during the restoration of the 19th century. Also the two steps at the foot of the fountain, which created the effect of the fountain emerging from the water of the large oval basin, have been removed.
Attilio Selva is the creator of the beautiful fountain erected in 1927 in quarter Prati. The shape of the monument has been inspired by the seventeenth-century art. The fountain is characterized by four statues, four naked women that, at the time of the erection, arouse a scandal. The four figures stand, with their backs turned, on the centre of the oval basin supporting with their heads and arms a large vertex on which rests a spout. At the centre of the group rises another naked figure from which fall fine sheets of water.
Fontana dei Leoni
Della Porta designed in 1562 the bases destined to support, at the bottom of the steps leading to the Campidoglio square, two black basalt Egyptian lions. They originally decorated the entrance of the church of Santo Stefano del Cacco. In 1562, when Acqua Felice was brought to the Capitoline hills and there was a lack of water after the aqueduct Marcio was interrupted, the two lions were modified and changed into lfountains.
In 1588, the stone cutter Francesco Scardua, following Camillo Rusconi's designs, carved two shells that had to collect water from the channels inserted into the lions' mouths. On at least two occasions, by the election of Pope Innocenzo X Pamphilj (1644-1655) and Pope Clemente X Altieri (1670-1676), the fountains poured red and white wine.
The first fountain, built by Giacomo della Porta and commissioned by Pope Gregory XIII Boncompagni, was judged by Leone XII Della Genga, beautiful but too big for the size of the square where it was to be placed. Thus he entrusted the refurbishing to Giuseppe Valadier, an artist of Roman classicism.
The name of the fountain originated from the Egyptian-style obelisk placed at the centre of the monument. Around the obelisk there are four white marble lions pouring water, fan-like, into the round travertine basins placed on a square base. Five stairs lead to the base. Valadier designed two more fountains to complete the lateral hemicycles.
Fontana di Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere
According to tradition this fountain is the oldest monumental fountain of Rome. It appeared in a map of the city, dating back to 1471, referred to its architect, Pietro de Massaio. The church of Santa Maria in Trastevere was originally known as Sancta Maria in fontibus. Probably the present fountain, dating back to 1471, is the replacement of the previous one, much older. The present monument is characterized by a central polygonal basin placed on a base where two other basins, one on the top of the other, are supported by balusters. The couplet epigram inscribed on the plaque on one corner of the fountain dates back to the end of the 15th century and is due to the restoration willed by Cardinal Lopez (lupus).
Being the only fountain placed in a poor district, it had always problems with the supply of water. Only during the 17th century Alessandro VII Chigi finally increased the supply from 5 to 36 ounces and moved the fountain to the centre of the square. In 1659 Bernini began the work leaving unmodified the upper part of the fountain and raising the octagonal basin at the top of stairs and four double shells. The Chigi coats-of-arms, externally carved, celebrate the restoration commissioned by the family. In 1692 the fountain underwent another change, willed by Pope Innocenzo XII who had it cleaned and probably increased the capacity of the basin. He also moved the shells so that they faced inwards, as to protect them. Finally, in 1873 the Municipality of Rome had it totally rebuilt of bardiglio marble, that replaced, in the same shape, the previous on eof travertine.
Fontana del Nettuno
This fountain, restored by Bernini, remained for three hundred years in the same square, piazza Nettuno, with no statues and decorations. In 1873 Antonio della Bitta won the competition and would carve the statue of Neptune, while Gregorio Zappalà carved the group around the basin, the see-horses, mermaids and puttos playing with the dolphins. The work was completed in 1878.
Fontana dei Navigatori
Fontana dei Navigatory means fountain of navigators. It rises close the small port of Ripetta and was built in 1704, after will of Pope Clemente XI Albani, to refresh and quench the thirst of porters who unloaded wood and wine. Alessandro Specchi, entrusted of the plan, realized a big rock, emerging from an oval basin, with a shell on its top. At each end of the shell he placed a dolphin pouring water into the basin below. The basin collects also the water poured by the rock, crowded by the coat-of-arms of Albini. In the middle of the 18th century, on the top of the rock has been added a lantern in order to facilitate the nocturnal arrivals of the ships.
Fontana di piazza del Quirinale
The fountain in piazza Quirinale is called fountain of Dioscuri because of the two enormous statues of Dioscuri with horses that are here since 1588, when Domenico Fontana was charged by Pope Sisto V Peretti to plan the only public fountain he has never planned. In front of the two statues he placed an octagonal basin, on the centre of which it rose a baluster supporting a small basin. Two hundred years later Pope Pio VI Braschi had the obelisk found in Campo Marzio carried to the square. The transport was a long and hard work, completed only in 1786.
But the present fountain dates back to 1818, when Pope VII Chiaramonti ordered the replacement of the previous fountain, with its wonderful granite basin supported by a baluster and rising over a big circular basin.
Fontana delle Anfore
The architect Pietro Lombardi won, in the 20's, a competition run by the municipality of Rome to design some local fountains. His most imposing and famous work is the fountain of the Anfore, built in the Testaccio quarter. The travertine fountain was erected with the broken jars from the nearby fluvial river of Ripa Grande. The circular base of the fountain is divided into four parts with each the same number of flights of steps. Each part contains a basin where water is poured from ajar while volutes and columns join the steps to the heavy central group of jars above.
Fountain delle terrine
In 1582 Giacomo della Porta was charged by Pope Gregoryo XIII Boncompagni to plan a fountain for Campo de Fiori. The fountain, placed in the popular square, had to be built below the street level because of the low pressure of the water flowing from the aqueduct Acqua Vergine.
At the end of the 17th century the fountain was removed to leave space for a monument in honour of Giordano Bruno. The fountain was composed by a large, oval shell, of white marble, and decorated with four bronze dolphins inserted into a large basin. Two flights of four steps led to the basin. In 1622 Pope Gregorio XV had the fountain close with a travertine lid for hygienic reasons. After the closure (due to the rubbish produced by the market of the square that permanently filled the basin and dirtied the water), Romans called this fountain "The Tureen", a soup dish. In 1924, after the removal, that lasted more than thirty years and deposited in municipal rooms, this fountain was rebuilt in the square of the Chiesa Nuova.
Piazza delle Cinque Scole
Carved by Pietro Gucci, this is considered one of the most beautiful creation of the architect Giacomo della Porta. The fountain is also known as the fountain of piazza Guiudia (or Giudea) because it was moved from the old ghetto, demolished in 1888.
Two steps lead to a white, elongated basin of marble. Another circular basin with a central jet is supported at the centre by a baluster. Water falls down into the lower basin from four open mouths of masks inspired by the Gorgons, with snakes in their hair.
Gian Lorenzo Bernini's father, Pietro, is the designer of this characteristic fountain, commissioned by Pope Urban VIII Barberini. According to legend Bernini was inspired by the story of an old boat beached during the overflowing of the Tiber in 1598. But its peculiar form (hence the name of the fountain, the bib boat) is due to a more practical reason. In fact, the fountain was constructed at ground level in order to compensate the low pressure of water coming from the aqueduct Acqua Vergine. The inside is decorated with two Barberini "sun mouths" sprouting water out in a fan, while externally there are two coats-of arms of the Pope's family. The ironic intent of the architect is to be noticed in the ironic form of the fountain, which recalls the typical boat used to transport wine.
Fontana delle Tartarughe
This wonderful fountain, erected by Giacomo della Porta in 1581, admirably combines water, architecture and sculpture. Another aspect that underlines its beauty relays in its location. "The Tartoise", in fact, is happily inserted in a corner of the city that has remained almost the same since the building of the monument. It was Mattei family that wanted it in its present location. In 1570, in fact, the fountain was supposed to be placed in the nearby ghetto, in piazza Giudia, that got its fountain (see the fountain in piazza Cinque Scole) in 1591. Four large marble shells rest in the centre of a wide basin with a square base and concave sides, above which rise four static bronze ephebes standing with their feet on the head of a bronze dolphin.
The ephebes, all in the same position, raise stretch their arms towards the overhanging marble shell. In the original plans other four dolphins, perhaps those that initially decorated the fountain in piazza Campo de' Fiore, should have replaced the tartoises, but were inserted during the 17th century after its first restoration.
Fontana delle Rane - piazza Mincio
Erected in 1924 after the plan of the architect Gino Coppedè, the "Fountain of the frogs" is one of the most recent in Rome. Each of the four couples of figures that rise over a low circular basin, supports a shell where a frog sprouts water into the shell self.
At the centre of the basin, among the eight shells, there is another circular basin decorated with eight frogs, tidily placed along its side, ready to jump towards toward the central jet of water.
Fontana dei 4 Fiumi
After the removal of the obelisk from Circo Massenzio to Piazza Navona authorised by Pope Innocenzo X Pamphilj, Bernini could see his plan fulfilled. Around the monolith have been placed four white marble statues representing four rivers.
Each river, in its turn, represents a continent. The Ganges, carved by Claude Puossin, represents Asia; the Nile, carved by Giacomo Antonio Fancelli, represents Africa; the Danube, carved by Antonio Raggi, symbolizes Europe and the Rio de la Plata, standing for America, carved by Francesco Baratta. The veil around the Nile symbolically suggests its mysterious origins.
Fontana del Moro
This fountain was firstly erected in 1574, under the papacy of Gregory XIII Boncompagni, after the plans of Giacomo della Porta. In 1653 Bernini was charged by Pope Innocence X Pamphilj to restore it completely. In occasion of the restoration of 1874 the four tritons and the masks were replaced with copies made by Luigi amici. The originals can be found in Municipal deposits.
The central sculpture, designed by Bernini and carved by Giannantonio Mari in 1655, is mistakenly called "The Moor" because of its characteristic facial features but it is in reality a muscular Triton riding a dolphin.
In 1572, after Giacomo della Porta's plans, was erected in Rome, in Piazza del Popolo, the first public fountain. The fountain underwent various removals. The last one was in 1823, when Valadier redesigned the square placing fur fountains at the foot of the obelisk. During the 19th century it was reconstructed in piazza Nicosia but only the large, octagonal basin of marble was conserved while the baluster and the upper basin have been built only recently. The four squatting tritons that decorate the fountain del Moro in piazza Navona were originally carved for this fountain but, resulting too big for the size of the basin they were placed in their present position.
Fontana del Mose'
The fountain of Moses was erected in 1572 by Giovanni and Domenico Fontana. It was built in travertine with three large niches emphasised by four Ionic columns with four Egyptian lions, symmetrically placed, two of white marble and two of dark marble. By its inauguration, in 1587, the 4 metres tall statue of Moses was not yet in the central niche of the fountain. In the lateral ones there are the statues of Aronne and Gideon. The frontice-piece holds the papal coat-of-arms while the basins are protected by an imposing baluster from a building erected by Pious IV, as the present inscription indicates.
Fontanella della Pigna
This little fountain was planned in 1927 by Pietro Lombardi as decoration for the Pigna quarter. That is why it was originally named after the colossal vertex now housed in the Vatican. The monument is characterized by a stylised base. The water is collected in small basins protected by four small columns.
Fontana di Piazza San Pietro
In June 1677 Pope Alessandro VII Chigi charged Gian Lorenzo Bernini not only to build the famous colonnade of the square, but also to replace the pre-existent fountain of Maderno, built in an asymmetric position with respect to the fahade of the Basilica with a new fountain that had to balance the obelisk.
The previous fountain carried on its sides the coat-of -arms of Pope Paolo V Borghese while the new one carried the six stars of Pope Clemente X, under whose pontificate the monument was completed. In origin the two fountains needed about six million litres of water a day. Now they are fitted up with a system that allows the recycling of the water.
Fontana di Piazza Sant'Andrea della Valle
Carlo Madero planned this fountain for Pope Paolo V Borghese, during the 17th century, to magnify, with classical motifs, the church of Santa Maria in Trasportina. The beautiful fountain is made of an elegant basin supported by a base that follows the same line. In the centre of the basin there is another little, circular basin that reproduces the Symbols of Borghese family, supported by a base decorated with dragons and eagles. This basin, originally of marble, has been replaced by one of cement after its destruction. A jet of water rises from the higher basin and falls into the lower one where there are three more jets just above the water.
Fontana di Piazza Trilussa
In 1613 Paolo V Borghese charged Giovanni Vasanzio to build the large travertine fountain that presently decorates the bridge Sisto. Originally the fountain was placed at the end of the elegant Via Giulia, near the Ospizio dei Mendicanti. Than it was moved to piazza Trilussa, next to the bridge. Two Ionic columns on either side of the wide niche supports with barrel vaults an architrave where rests a commemorative epigraph. The Borghese coat-of-arms dominates over everything. Much water flows from an opening in the lateral part of the niche and falls into a shell from where it loudly goes down to the basin at the street level.
Water falls also from two dragons carved in the base of the columns and two lions' heads. Six columns, of red granite, are linked by means of an iron structure that protects the fountain, moved in 1879 when it was decided to widen the bed of the Tiber and build the left bank, that happened at the end of the 19th century. It was then raised about fifteen steps above street level in order to make it more visible from the bridge Sisto.
Fontana dell'Acqua Acea
In 1962 Ugo Macri, Giorgio Quaroni, and Americo Romitelli won a competition to plan a new modern fountain that was to be placed inside the green area in front of the Acea building. The water falls from vertical structures decorated in bas-relief into a wide basin below. The fountain is particular fascinating at night when it is artfully illuminated.
Fontana del Babuino
Thanks to Pope Pious IV Medici a new type of fountain began to be erected in the city, the so called "semi-public" fountain. The erection of those fountains had to be paid by private families who wanted it near their houses. The Pope, on its turn, granted the affluence of water. Via del Baduino changed its name to Via Paulina at the end of the 16th century when a rich merchant from Ferrara, Patrizio Grandi, obtained water from his property and fields by building a public fountain in the area.
A statue of a satyr stands over the rectangular basin of grey granite. When the merchant donated it people did not like it and linked their features to a baboon. That is why also the street has changed its name to via del Baduino. The Baboon is one of the famous Roman "talking statues".
Fontana della Botte
In 1927 Pietro Lombardi built in the quarter Trastevere, on the corner between via della Cisterna and via San Francesco a Ripa, a fountain known as the Fountain of the Barrel. This fountain celebrates the wide presence of wine shops and tavern in this area. The barrel, vertically placed on a base, is the typical "cart" used in the past to transport wine of Roman castle. The water pours out from a central hole to a half basin below.
On either sides of the barrel there are two containers to measure the wine from which flows down water, collected in strategically placed shells. Those containers are exactly the same in use today in the Roman taverns.
Fontana della Navicella
The Navicella, little boat, was erected during the 16th century, probably after an idea of Sansovino, on the Celio hills, right in front of the church of Santa Maria in Dominica, also known as "in navicula". Than this fountain was restored by Cardinal Medici, who later became Pope under the name of Leone X. According to legend the marble fountain representing a Roman galley was a votive offering of the sailors to Isis, the goddess protector of travellers.
A jet of water rises from the centre of the bridge of the small boat placed on a base decorated with the coat-of-arms of Leone X and is collected into an oval travertine basin below.
Fontana del Prigione
Villa Montalto, placed on the Esquilino hill and owned by Sisto Peretti (1585-1590)was the largest private property within the city walls. In 1877 the whole area was divided up to build the Termini railway station, piazza dei Cinquecento and other modern districts. The only fountain left after the destruction of the villa, also made by Domenico Fontana, was constructed in 1938 on the slopes of the Gianicolo.
The present fountain has a large niche surrounded by two pilasters strips with an over-hanging, richly decorated frontal-piece at the centre of which water flows from a lion's head to be collected in a basin protected by six small columns. The statue of the prisoner after which the statue has been named has been lost.
Fontana del Facchino
The Facchino (porter), one of the most famous "talking statues" of Roma, represents a water-seller in his characteristic dress. According to others, this statue is dedicated to the wine carriers and reproduces the job of a certain Abbondio Rizzio, famous for his strength and capacity to drink a large amount of the wine he transported. Of uncertain origin, it was attributed to Jacopo del Conte, supposedly between 1587 and 1598.
More from Rome (Roma)