Monday, July 2, 2012

Fountains of Rome

No food in this post, unless you count water - and why not? Rome is inextricably linked to water from its founding in the 8th century B.C., when Romulus and Remus were stranded at the foot of the Palatine hill after the Tiber's banks overflowed.

 For centuries that followed, enormous public works showcased Rome's power and wealth and contributed to the formation of an impressive-looking city. Some of the ancient bridges, aqueducts, monumental fountains and bath complexes were extraordinary structures, and unfortunately are now only ruins. But there are still a plethora of glorious fountains throughout the city today due to renovation and beautification projects that took place during the Renaissance and Baroque periods. The poet Shelly declared in the 19th century that Rome's fountains alone justify a visit.  So for those of you who can't travel to the Eternal City this summer, (or for those of you who can and just want a little tease beforehand), here a few of my favorites, starting with what is probably the world's most celebrated fountain - the Trevi Fountain, above. Water is provided to the fountain by the Virgo Aqueduct, the only ancient aqueduct that has remained virtually unchanged through the centuries. Built at the time of Emperor Augustus, the aqueduct still provides water not only to the Trevi fountain, but also those in the Piazza Navona and Piazza di Spagna.

The Trevi Fountain was immortalized in Fellini's "La Dolce Vita" when the charismatic Marcello Mastroianni and voluptuous Anita Ekberg wade in, and in the charming "Roman Holiday" with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck.  The next fountain is not so well known, but charming nonetheless. 

Fontana del facchino (porter) on the via Lata.

This is one of the city's "talking fountains", where Romans used to attach political satires (pasquinades). The fountain is tucked away in a little side street off the Via del Corso.

Fontana dell'Aqua Paola or "Il Fontanone" - This large, elegant 17th century fountain is located at the top of the Janiculum hill. The columns in between the arches come from the old basilica of St. Peter, and the rest of the material was taken from the Roman Forum. For a magnificent view of the city, walk up from Trastevere (or take the little electric bus and stay on until Piazza Garibaldi, then walk down.) Opposite the fountain is Spanish embassy (complete with machine-gun-toting guards). On the way up, you'll pass the beautiful church of San Pietro in Montorio, with a Bramante-designed tempietto.

Fountain of the Triton in the Piazza Barberini - This fountain, depicting a sea monster - half man and half fish - was executed for the Barberini family by the masterful sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

Fontanella delle Api -  Another Bernini fountain nearby, at the corner of Via Veneto, was commissioned from Urban VIII just a few days after the nearby Fountain of the Triton was completed. Note the three bees at the juncture of the clamshell, the symbol of the Barberinis.

Fountain of the Four Rivers in the Piazza Navona - This is probably Gian Lorenzo Bernini's most famous fountain and it represents four rivers that symbolize four continents. The four statues represent the Nile (Africa), the Ganges (Asia), the Danube (Europe) and the Rio de la Plata (the Americas). Legend has it that Bernini carved the arm of one of the statues lifted up in protection in case the church of St. Agnese, built by his rival Borromini, should collapse against him. In truth, however, Bernini completed the fountain several years before Borromini began work on the church.

Fontana della barcaccia - At the base of the Spanish Steps, this barcaccia or "ugly old boat," was commissioned by Pope Urban VIII Barberini and erected by Pietro Bernini, father of Gian Lorenzo.

Every time I pass this fountain on Via Giulia with its strange face, it makes me smile. 

Fontana di piazza Colonna - charming fountain with sculptures of dolphins and seashells, along the via del Corso, next to the Palazzo Chigi, the official residence of Italy's prime minister

Fontana dei cavalli marini (seahorses) in the villa Borghese, Rome's best known and most loved park.  - The fountain was designed in the 18th century by the northern Italian painter Cristoforo Unterpergher.

Fountain of the barrel or "botte" on via della Cisterna in Trastevere - charming, despite the graffiti, and representing the barrels used to transport wine from the Castelli Romani, the towns outside Rome.
Fountain of the books, built in 1927, is located next to the complex of Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza, that was once the seat of the University of Rome. The deer's head and cross represent Saint Eustachio, a Roman general who was converted to Christianity after he saw a vision of Jesus between stag's antlers

 Fontana del mascherone -  outside of Santa Sabina church, next to a park with a gorgeous view of Rome and nearby to the Knights of Malta, with its secret keyhole view.

Fountain on Via Margutta - on a street known for artists, a fountain dedicated to them, with tools of the trade - compasses, buckets of brushes and happy and sad faces

Fontana delle Tartarughe  - What is probably my favorite fountain in Rome (and many Romans too, no doubt) is located in the Jewish ghetto in Piazza Mattei. It was made in the late 1500s. During a restoration in 1658, the turtles drinking from the upper basin were added, possibly by Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
Giveaway winner - The winner of the cookbook giveaway in my last post is 

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  1. Linda, you know your teasing me! Less than 3 months before I'm in Rome. Can't wait! Love seeing these fountains and where I will be going!

  2. Gorgeous! Thanks for sharing.



  3. This is a beautiful post. I love seeing the photo collection of Rome. I'm amazed that you managed to get great photos minus the crowd. Beautiful!

  4. Beautiful fountains, one after another. I love the Trevi, it brings back great memories when we were in Rome. Loved reading all the history!

  5. You have no idea what a lift this gave to my morning - as if I was strolling in Rome alongside you. Grazie.

  6. This was a very enjoyable post, Linda! I was marveling overall of the fountains and thinking how well maintained they were when I scrolled to the Fountain of the Barrels with graffiti surrounding it! That made me mad!

    Trevi is the most magnificent fountain but hard to photograph with all the tourists and vendors that surround did a wonderful job!

  7. I have been in Rome many times, but always seem to get caught up photographing the doorways and windows which I find so interesting. Thanks for redirecting my focus to the fountains. They are beautiful.

  8. What a fabulous tour of the fountains of Rome. This was a wonderful post and I enjoyed every frame of it. Have a wonderful evening. Blessings...Mary

  9. Thanks for allowing us to take an armchair journey through Rome.

  10. Oh, this pleased my soul today! I spent a year in Roma, and lived two blocks down from the Fontana di Trevi, and have seen all of these, but my absolute favorite is the Bernini Fountain of the Bees, as are his sculptures in the Villa Borghese Museum.

    Mille grazie!

    ~ Peggasus

  11. Linda, what a positively wonderful and most welcome post fro an armchair traveler such as myself. You photographs brought back memories and introduced me to fountains I did not know existed. Thanks so much!

  12. Lo so che รจ vietato ma un tuffo in quelle fontane lo farei volentieri !