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How many of the beautiful fountains in Rome have you discovered? Let’s take you on a virtual wander of some of the Eternal city’s over 2,000 fountains and show you some favorites.
These remarkable structures not only provide its citizens with fresh drinking water as they have for centuries; but also create at atmosphere that is uniquely Roman.
Famous fountains in Rome
With well over 2,000 decorative and functional fountains, Rome has more fountains than any other city in the world. Some date back to ancient times, while others are from the Renaissance and Baroque eras. Among them you will find some of the iconic sights of the Eternal City, recognizable the world over as magnificent examples of craftsmanship and functional artwork.
Trevi Fountain – Fontana di Trevi
The Trevi Fountain is not only the largest, most spectacular, but it’s also the famous fountain in Rome. It was built to extol three different Popes; Pope Urban VIII who started the project in 1629, Pope Clement XII continued it, and Pope Clement XIII who saw to the project’s completion in 1762.
The Palazzo Poli serves as the Trevi fountain’s dramatic backdrop. The artistic theme of the fountain’s marble sculptures is taming of the waters. The waters tumble over many mythical figures, including the god Oceanus, the Tritons and goddesses representing abundance.Make sure to throw a coin in the Trevi fountain to ensure your return to Rome. As an added bonus, the money collected from the fountain is used to support the city's homeless.
The monumental fountain towers 26.3 meters or 86 feet in the air, and spans 49.15 meters, or 161.3 feet across. It’s not only the largest fountain in Rome, but it’s also the most famous fountain in the world. You will instantly recognize this icon of the Eternal City from the films Roman Holiday starring Audrey Hepburn, Three Coins in the Fountain, Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, Sabrina Goes to Rome and The Lizzie McGuire Movie.
Fontana della Barcaccia located in Piazza di Spagna
The “fountain of the boat” was commissioned by Pope Urban VIII in 1623 as part of an initiative to build a fountain in every major piazza in the city. The fountain was carved by acclaimed sculptor Pietro Bernini and was completed between 1627 and 1629.
Bernini’s inspiration for the fountain was an incident that happened in 1598. The River Tiber flooded, and carried a boat into the Piazza di Spagna. When the floodwaters receded, the boat stood incongruously stranded in the center of the square.
The water flows into the fountain from the Acqua Vergine, an ancient Roman aqueduct from 19 BCE. Bernini built the fountain slightly below ground level to help boost the low water pressure. Water flows gently from seven places on the fountain, creating a wonderful soothing sound.
Fountains of Piazza Navona
Piazza Navona is the site of the Stadium of Domitian, which was built in the 1st century AD. It was here the ancient Romans went to watch the games.
Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi – Fountain of the Four Rivers
This magnificent fountain is the first thing that will catch your eye in the Piazza Navona. It was designed and built by Pietro Bernini in 1651. At the center is a towering replica of the Egyptian obelisk brought to Rome by Emperor Caracalla. At the foot of the obelisk are four gods representing the four continents upon which the Roman Catholic Church held sway; the Nile River representing Africa, the Danube River representing Europe, the Ganges representing Asia, and the Río de la Plata representing the American continents.
La Fontana del Moro
This Piazza Navona fountain was designed by Giacomo Della Porta in 1575. The fountain was originally adorned with a leaping dolphin and four Tritons. In 1653, a statue of a Moor, by sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini, was added. The statues you see today are replicas of the originals, which were moved to the Galleria Borghese in 1874 during a restoration.
Fontana del Nettuno – Fountain of Neptune
The Fountain of Neptune was once called “Fontana dei Calderari” thanks to of its proximity to an alley with blacksmith and metal workshops, all of which generated heat. Designed by Giacomo Della Porta in 1574, the fountain was utilitarian for 300 years, serving the community with water. It was without statues until the 19th century brought infrastructure improvement to the city. In 1878 the imposing statue of Neptune battling with an octopus, by Antonio Della Bitta, was added. Likewise, sculptures representing the Cupids and walruses with the Nereids were added by artist Gregorio Zappalà.
Fountains of St. Peter’s Square
These fountains reside in Vatican City in front of St. Peter’s Basilica. They were created by the artists Carlo Maderno and Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
The Maderno Fountain
The ancient Roman aqueduct the Aqua Traiana was restored and renamed the Acqua Paola in 1612. The aqueduct now provided an existing fountain with much more water, and Carlo Maderno was given the commission to redesign this Roman fountain. Maderno designed the fountain in a way that when the water poured from the top, it splashed down in sparkling droplets into an octagonal basin.
The Bernini Fountain
Fifty years after the Maderno fountain, Pope Clement X commissioned Gian Lorenzo Bernini in 1667 to construct a second fountain, similar to the one the designed by Maderno. Bernini fountain completed the fountain a decade later.
Fontana del Pantheon
The Fontana del Pantheon (Fountain of the Pantheon) is located in front of the ancient Roman Pantheon, in the Piazza della Rotonda. It was commissioned by Pope Gregory XIII in 1575 and designed by Giacomo della Porta. However, sculptor Leonardo Sormani executed the design, crafting the beautiful fountain out of marble.
In 1711, Pope Clement XI added to the fountain. He commissioned Filippo Barigioni to design a new basin, and added the ancient Egyptian Macuteo obelisk, made during the reign of Ramses II. The renovation was completed with four dolphins around the base. The statues you see today are replicas as the originals are preserved in the Museum of Rome.
Monumental fountains of Rome
These massive fountains were erected at the termini of the ancient aqueducts of Imperial Rome. The aqueducts were restored in the late 1500s to bring water to the people of the Eternal City. Consequently, these fabulous Roman fountains were dedicated to the Popes who initiated the revitalization of the aqueducts, and the city.
Fontana dell’Acqua Paola
Pope Paul V initiated the project to rebuild the ruins of the Acqua Traiana aqueduct, originally constructed by Emperor Trajan. For centuries, the people who lived on Janiculum Hill had taken their water from the polluted Tiber River. The newly restored aqueduct provided a source of clean drinking water for the residents living nearby. To commemorate this event, the Fontana dell’Acqua Paola was erected in 1612, and was named for Pope Paul V.
The fountain was designed by Giovanni Fontana and Flaminio Ponzio. White marble from the ruins of the Forum of Nerva and the Temple of Minerva were used in the construction. The fountain consists of five massive arches through which the water flows. At the pinnacle are carvings of the papal tiara and keys, as well as the Borghese family’s coat of arms. The symbols on the coat of arms are a dragon and an eagle held aloft by angels. The inscriptions praise Pope Paul V for providing water to the people of Janiculum Hill.
Fontana dell’Acqua Felice – Fountain of Moses
The Fontana dell’Acqua Felice also known as the the Fountain of Moses is in the Quirinale district of Rome. It’s at the end of the Acqua Felice aqueduct which was restored by Pope Sixtus V. At the time, only one of the old Roman aqueducts, the Aqua Vergine, was still functioning. Anyone who wanted clean drinking water had to make the trek the one fountain that the Aqua Vergine supplied. Pope Sixtus V took the initiative, and began public works projects to restore the other Roman aqueducts.
The Fontana dell’Acqua Felice was erected at the terminus of the newly restored Aqua Felice aqueduct. In fact, this monumental fountain was the first new fountain in the city of Rome since antiquity. The fountain was designed by Domenico Fontana and finished in 1588. The fountain was built after the fashion of an ancient Roman triumphal arch. The inscription honors Pope Sixtus, and features angels embracing the papal coat of arms.
Interesting Roman Fountains
There are many interesting and charming fountains throughout Rome. Here are a few of our favorites.
Fontana delle Tartarughe – Fountain of the Turtles
This beautiful fountain is located in Piazza Mattei. It was finished in 1588, and was designed by Giacomo Della Porta and executed by the sculptor Taddeo Landini. The bronze turtles that peek over the top basin were added seventy years later when the fountain was restored. Apparently the turtles proved too much of a temptation for thieves so the originals are kept in the Capitoline Museums.
Fontana del Tritone – Triton Fountain in Piazza Barberini
This dramatic fountain was carved in travertine by the sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini in 1643. At the center is a huge Triton, a sea god of ancient Roman mythology. At the base are four dolphins intertwined around the papal shield. The fountain was built to provide water from the restored Acqua Felice aqueduct and was Bernini’s first free-standing urban fountain.
Fontanella del Facchino – Fountain of the Porter
This is one of the “talking fountains” of Rome – a place where citizens leave anonymous messages and political critique, somewhat like today’s online forums! The statue depicts an “acquarolo”, one of the merchants who would take water from the Tiber River to sell, before the aqueducts were restored. It was created around 1580 and was moved to its current location near the Banco di Roma, on the Via Lata in 1874.
Fontana di Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere
Said to be the oldest fountain in Rome, the Fontana di Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere dates back to the 8th century and stands in front of the church of the same name. The octagonal fountain has been rebuilt several times, with the last restoration in 1984 and is a popular meeting place in the Trastevere district.
Fontana del Nettuno in Piazza del Popolo
The Fountain of Neptune is relatively new, built in the 1823 by Giovanni Ceccarini. It’s at the terminus of the Acqua Vergine Nuovo. This gigantic fountain can be found in the Piazza del Popolo at the base of the Pincio, one of the seven hills of Rome. The Fontana del Nettuno showcases Neptune brandishing a Trident, flanked by two Tritons.
Fontana dei Libri – Fountain of the Books
Sometimes you make the best discoveries walking down the small side streets of Rome’s centro storico. That’s where we found the Fontana de Libri. This small fountain features a deer’s head and four ancient books, all symbols of its home in the Sant’Eustachio district and on the wall of the Università della Sapienza.
Why fountains are so important to Rome
The eternal city of Rome has an ancient and mystical relationship with water. Indeed, the ancient Romans considered water a blessing from the gods and made many innovations to harness its power.
Ancient Rome is known not only for its extensive network of aqueducts, but also for their advancements in hygiene. The Roman baths were not only a place to get clean, but a place to socialize. Above all, their fabulous fountains served their communities as a place to get clean water, and also as a place to gather and socialize.
One interesting fact about Rome’s fountains is that they all operate by gravity alone; the water source needs to be higher than the fountain. The distance between the water source and the elevation determined how high the water would shoot in the fountain.
Today, all of the fountains in Rome have been restored, using both gravity and pumps and the water in the fountains is also recycled. Rather than providing their neighborhoods with water, the fountains today serve as a reminder of both the glory of Ancient Rome, the Renaissance and Baroque era. Both visitors and Romans alike delight in the famous fountains of Rome.
Map of Rome’s fountains
Want to tour the fountains of Rome when you visit the Eternal city? Use our handy map to guide you. Simply click on the rectangle icon at the top of the map to open a large version which you can copy to your Google maps account or print
Water is life, and it flows like time, sustaining humanity throughout the centuries. The fountains of Rome form a timeless connection from the people of the distant past, to the people of today.
Do you have a favorite fountain in Rome?