The tale of the Trevi fountain, one of Rome’s most iconic fountains, begins with a young girl. Legend has it that the source of Acqua Vergina, which supplies the Trevi Fountain, was discovered by a young girl (the “virgin”). She later showed it to Roman soldiers returning from Rome. Marcus Agrippa discovered it and made Acqua Virgo the source of the Acqua Virgo. This was one of the 11 ancient Roman acqueducts which gave the city the title Regina Aquarum, or “Queen of the Waters”.
After falling into disuse, the Acqua Virgo was rehabilitated and renamed into the Acqua Vergina during the Rennaissance. After this architectural wonder had been recommissioned 100 years ago, Pope Urban VIII noticed that the original fountain wasn’t cutting it as the terminus of such a long-standing source of water.
Pope Clement XII, his successor, solved the problem in the same way Baroque Romans did all their civic problems: by holding a contest. A Florentine Alessandro Galilei won the top prize but was not able to convince Rome’s public that he could design a fountain with a Roman theme. The winner was disregarded and the second-place contestant’s design, Nicola Salvi, was built.
It took 30 years to build the fountain and was funded with money from the Roman lottery. It is a fountain that has a multitude of influences and is, due to its location, history, and imagery, undoubtedly, one of the most beautiful and striking in Rome.
You can learn more about Rome’s Trevi Fountain and other iconic sites by visiting our Welcome To Rome: Twilight City Stroll, Gelato-Tasting tour
What can you see
Oceanus, Abundance, Health
The fountain’s central theme is Rome’s mastery over water. Oceanus, the divine personification and god of the sea from Classical Antiquity, is in the middle. His flanks represent Abundance, who drinks from large amounts of water, and Health or Salubrity who holds a cup that has a snake in it. (The snake is a classic symbol of health as shown on the caduceus, the doctor’s symbol). Travertine is used to create the entire fountain.
One or two
The legends surrounding the Trevi Fountain and the films in which they have appeared, such as Three Coins in the Fountain and Fellini’s immortal La Dolce Vita, are a large part of the Trevi Fountain’s fame. According to the most popular tradition, if you turn your back to the fountain and throw a coin over the shoulder into the water, you will eventually return to Rome.
Two coins placed on your shoulder will make it easier to find your true love, while three is a downpayment for marriage. Another common belief that is often mentioned in literature is that you can never stop loving your loved one if you drink water from the fountain.
We wouldn’t recommend drinking the water as it accumulates in the fountain each day, which is dutifully given away to charity.
The iconic role that Trevi Fountain played in many movies about the Eternal City is one of the reasons it has become so well-known. The 1954 romantic comedy Three Coins in the Fountain and its Oscar-winning song, of the same title, romanticized the act known as the over-the shoulder coin toss.
Even more famous, but less well-known, is the scene in La Dolce Vita where Anita Ekberg wales into the fountain. Last but not least, how could you forget Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck stealing scenes near the fountain from their romantic comedy Roman Holiday.
More: 10 Best Movies in Italy
Tips to Visit the Trevi Fountain
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Trevi fountain, a public art, is not allowed to open or close except for renovations. It is powered solely by gravity and fed by an aqueduct. The Fendi fashion house renovated it, but after being closed for a good year, it’s now back and even better than ever.
The fountain lights may be turned off at night depending on the season and the inexplicable machinations by the Roman government. It is more likely that you will win the Roman lottery than to guess when it might occur, but if your visit falls during high season, the fountain lights should remain on for most of the night.
The water should not be consumed. The water that comes from the Trevi Fountain is a water source from one of Rome’s oldest aqueducts. However, the coins make it less appealing. You can still enjoy the ancient tradition of water drinking by sharing your one with a glass of Fontanina degli Innamorati, or the “Lovers Fountain”, which is located in a small corner to the left of Trevi fountain.
Also, it should be obvious that wading into the fountain is not allowed. Even if you feel like you’re in a Federico Fellini movie,
The Best Times to Visit the Trevi Fountain
It is a famous landmark in Rome, and can get crowded. The fountain is not the only tourist attraction in Rome that is packed during high season (May-September).
However, you can only get peace and quiet at this famous site if you go early in the morning. This applies to all the famous Rome monuments, but it will surprise you how much you can see if you just set your alarm an hour earlier.