My wife and I love to traveling through history. Seeing all the famous sites and learning the history behind them. And then sharing them with you, hoping that when you too visit you’ll have a deeper appreciation of what you’re seeing.
With so much restoration going on in Rome it’s hard to find everything you want to see when you visit open, and so it was with the Trevi Fountain. As my wife and I walked down the Via delle Muratte toward the Piazza di Tervi we were told that you can hear the fountain’s gushing water getting more intense as you drawn near it. For us, when we visited, it was only the sound of the crowds in the piazza. When we reached the piazza we found that the fountain was dry, scaffolding was up among the statues, and a plexiglass wall surrounding it.
This was due to a major twenty months restoration of the fountain that had begun in 2014, using a 2.2 million euro sponsorship from the Fendi fashion company. Completion, of what was to be the most thorough restoration of the fountain ever done, wasn’t until November of 2015, and our visit was in September of that year. Even with it being dry and having the surrounding wall, the fountains sheer size (161 feet wide by 86 feet high) with its classic grouping of statues makes this magnificent work of art awe-inspiring.
The location of the Trevi Fountain is at the end of one of Rome’s ancient aqueducts, the Aqua Virgo. This aqueduct was built by the Emperor Augustus to feed the hot baths of Agrippa and to also provide water to Rome, which it did for over 400 years.
Even after the fall of Rome the aqueduct, with a simple fountain, continued to provide water to the area. It was with Pope Clement XII in 1730 that the fountain we know today came into being. The fountain was to be part of Pope Clement’s project in rebuilding the Tervi district. He knew of plans for a magnificent fountain designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini that was to be built there, but that project had never gotten started. After a heated contest between Roman architects the Pope gave the commission to Nicola Salvi. Salvi began his construction in 1732, incorporating some of Bernini’s original concepts into his final design. When Salvi was constructing his fountain he was bothered by an unsightly sign that a barber refused to remove, so he hid it behind a large sculpted vase. Today Romans call this vase asso di coppe, “the Ace of Cups.” Salvi didn’t live to see his fountain completed, he died in 1751. The fountain was finished by Giuseppe Pannini in 1762, when Pietro Bracci’s large statue “Oceanus” was placed in the fountain’s central niche. The Trevi Fountain remains today one of the most spectacular works of Baroque art in the city.
The Trevi Fountain has been made famous by being featured in the movies “La Dolce Vita” and “Three Coins in the Fountain.” I was in this last film that began the tradition of throwing coins into the fountain. The proper way is to use your right hand and throw the coins over your left shoulder, with your back to the fountain. It is estimated that over 3,000 Euros are removed from the fountain each day. That is why they included a recessed section of the plexiglass wall so that visitors could still tosh coins into the dry fountain during the restoration.
Tradition says that when you throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain you will return to Rome, but since the fountain was not working when we were there we did to return to see it in all its glory.