A guide to Trevi Fountain in Rome


    The trevi Fountain in Rome is probably one of the biggest, most spectacular fountains in the Eternal city.
    It is one of the essential stops on a visit to the Eternal City that amazes not only for its beauty, but also for its fascinating history.

    The origins of Trevi Fountain

    The origins of Trevi Fountain date back to the 19th Century Bc. When at the beginning, it served as the ending point of the Aqueduct, “Aqua Virgo“. Legend has it that this name was coined by Maco Vispanio Agrippa (founder of many buildings in Imperialistic Rome in the area of Campus Martius surrounding the Trevi Fountain, including the Pantheon). As of Agrippa’s narrations, the Aqueduct was shown to him by a group of thirsty soldiers, returning home after one of the many assignments they would receive from a beautiful woman, a virgin. Hence the name: Aqua Virgo means Virgin waters.

    The first Trevi Fountain has renaissance origins. It was with the supervision of Pope Nicolas the 5th in 1453, that the restorations of the Roman Aqueduct begun, following the plans of two very distinguished architects, Leon Battista Alberti and Bernardo Rossellini.

    The Fountain however started to take shape only under Pope Urbano the 8th, who assigned its construction to Gian Lorenzo Bernini. As the project took form, the Pope wanted it to be bigger and bigger and even more amazing without counting the fact that it would inevitably take longer, with all the changes and upgrades and it would obviously cost more. Therefore, to make ends meet, he was forced to raise the tax on wine, which created inevitable discontentment among the Roman People. And Bernini was forced to use, in some occasions, the dismantled materials obtained from the previous project. So time, money and energy were all concentrated on this enormous fountain.

    Unfortunately, both the Pope and Bernini did not live long enough to see it finished.

    It was Pope Clemente the 12th, over a hundred years later, to celebrate the Fountain’s conclusions, in May of 1762. And it’s in his honor that an inscription in the center of the Fountain reads “Clemens XII PONT MAX”. And it’s the Architect Giuseppe Pannini who was in charge of ending the fountain’s construction as we see it today: a masterpiece that, you will notice, is encompassed in a portion of the lower façade of a monumental building, Palazzo Poli.

    The statues of the Trevi Fountain

    Adorned from left to right with 4 monumental statues dated 1753:

    • The symbolization of the “Abundance of the Fruits” (by Agostino Corsini)
    • the “Fertility of the Fields” (by Bernardo Ludovisi)
    • the “Autumn Harvest” (by Francesco Queirolo)
    • the “Pleasantness of the meadows” (by Bartolomeo Pincellotti).

    In the center of its majestic niche, you can see the statue of the God of the Seas, standing on a seashell pulled by two winged seahorses, one for each side. The one on the left is raging and it’s driven by the young version Triton, while the seahorse on the right is peaceful and it’s driven by the older version of Triton. An allegorical contribution to the different phases of the human life: Past, Present and Future.

    The Coin toss in the Trevi Fountain and other traditions

    Fountain of Trevi

    Did you ever wonder what is meaning the lies behind such a famous act of tossing a coin into the Fountain?

    Very few know, that one of the main characters that started this modern day tradition is actually a movie: The 1954 “Three coins in the Trevi Fountain” and it recites: Tossing one coin in the Fountain you will return to Rome someday, tossing two coins in the fountain you will find love with an Italian and finally, tossing three coins in the fountain you will marry the Italian you met. Mind you, the prediction is only true if you toss the coins over your left shoulder, with your right hand.

    Another less known legend is the stream of the lovers
    On the side of the fountain you can find a drinking fountain called the Lovers’ stream. With a marble bench to sit and a system of two little sprouts that cross each other, from which young lovers would have to drink.

    The tradition consisted in a glass of water, that the boyfriends would have to drink from, and after pass the empty glass to their girlfriends that would smash the glass, as a pact of fidelity and love.

    Curiosities on the movie “La Dolce Vita” in the Trevi Fountain in Rome
    If you haven’t seen “La Dolce Vita”, you absolutely have to watch it before heading to the Trevi Fountain
    This masterpiece by Federico Fellini was filmed in 1960 and it is one of the most famous movies in the history of Cinema.

    It entails the Dolce Vita, the Sweet life, a real lifestyle in Rome at the end of the 1950s who’s main character is a young, handsome Marcello Mastroianni. One of the most iconic performances in the film is when the beautiful actress Anita Ekberg in the middle of the night, invites Marcello into the Trevi Fountain, where she dived in fully dressed, in a black cocktail dress and golden hair swaying on her shoulders.

    “Marcello, come here. Hurry up!” is how she would invite him in the fountain to take a swim with her, in that movie. A fun fact: this part of the movie was filmed between February and March. Marcello Mastroianni was extremely sensitive to cold, and the water in the Trevi Fountain was freezing. He was resistant to go on with this particular scene, and took some convincing by handing him a wetsuit, to wear under his clothes. But Anita Ekberg, a Swedish actress, who was clearly used to cold temperatures, stood in the freezing cold waters of the Trevi fountain for a really long time, without complaining.

    As master Fellini later revealed in an interview for an Italian Newspaper: “When we were filming the scene at night, there were people everywhere, on the balconies, on the roofs surrounding the Trevi Fountain. Half of Rome was there that night, in the freezing cold weather, just for that scene… To convince Marcello to get in the water we had to dress him up as a scuba diver. But after some time in the water, he couldn’t resist any longer. So he powered through, by drinking an entire a bottle of vodka, to keep him warm. Little did we know, during that entire scene in the movie, Marcello Mastroianni was completely drunk!”

    Other curiosities about Trevi Fountain: The stories behind the Ace of Cups
    Adjacent to the Fountain, you can find a sculpture, that Romans call The Ace of Cups. One of the many fun, interesting and mysterious things involving the sculptures in Rome. But why is it so relevant?

    It seems that during the early years of restorations, there was an old barber shop, right next to the Trevi Fountain, on the square. And the barber could not stop complaining about it. Let’s just say that he did not approve of its entire design… So one of the Fountain’s Architects, a certain Mr. Salvi, had a sculpture made and placed it in front of his Barbershop, to obstruct the views of the Trevi Fountain.

    The Ace of Cups is an affectionate name coined by the Romans in the neighborhood that knew about the story behind the statue. But it isn’t at all a Cup per se: in fact, that the sculpture is of one of the containers that Barbers used to store their instruments in, at the time.

    After the sculpture was erected, peace was restored, and the Trevi Fountain continued to take form into the brilliant, beautiful work of art we all know and love today.

    Was it the Architect’s courtesy? Or was it a satire aimed at the poor grouchy barber? Who knows. The matter of fact is that Roman masterpieces are to be found in the most unexpected places and the meaning behind some of them is mind boggling for sure.

    There are so many curiosities surrounding the Fountain. Like have you noticed that there aren’t birds anywhere near the pools and waterfalls? Rome is notoriously infested with pigeons and Seagulls. So why is it that we never see one land on top of Neptune? It’s quite simple really: The entire fountain and its figures are electrified! Small shocks, harmless really. Just to scare the birds away, to preserve the Trevi Fountains hygiene and beauty.
    As you can see The Trevi Fountain is more than a monumental stop a tourist has to make when in Rome. There are many curiosities and facts behind its entire history, that make for a beautiful guided experience.

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