The song of water in the Eternal City

Nasone SPQR

One of the most evocative itineraries for anyone visiting Rome, winds through fountains and spouts.

From the most famous, such as the Trevi Fountain, the Barcaccia or Four Rivers, to the many drinking fountains with curved beak, known to the Romans as “big noses” and adorned with mosaics, numbers, and memorial writings, they compose a scenario of extraordinary beauty and originality. Without its fountains, Rome would not be the same.

The fountains are a testament to the passion that the Romans have always had for public waters, such as aqueducts and baths. Hence the construction of about two thousand monuments that create spectacular waterworks and still today enrich the streets and squares of the capital. Probably the geology of the land on which the city was built, favored the appearance of numerous spontaneous springs and streams of water, and the consequent tendency to create architectural works or small fountains.

Fontana dei quattro fiumi a Roma

So, if you find yourself walking through the streets of the historic center in Rome, listen to the song of the water and lose yourself freely to discover little secrets. You can start from the Fountain of the Four Rivers by Bernini in Piazza Navona, a sculptural work surmounted by four naked giants with expressive exuberance that represent the four major rivers of the world: Rio de la Plata, Ganges, Nile and Danube. At a short distance you will reach a real gem from the late Roman Renaissance: the Turtle Fountain in Piazza Mattei. Its history is hanging in the middle, between reality and legend. It is said that the fountain was built in one night by Duke Mattei to assert his noble social position positively impressing the beloved father who was opposed to this union. Although highly imaginative, the story adds a touch of romance to the square. From here you can continue to the fountain of Fellini’s Dolce Vita, Rome’s most famous: the Trevi Fountain, where tourists continue to pass on the tradition of the coin toss as a good omen to return. Walk a little more and you reach Piazza di Spagna where you can linger sitting on the steps of the unmistakable Trinita dei Monti to look down on another masterpiece of the city: the Fountain of Barcaccia. It is said that the particular form of boat that also gives its name was inspired by the presence of a boat in a dry on the square, brought by the Tiber flood in 1598. Another interpretation links the Barcaccia with the ancient existence of a naumakia – open-pit building where games and battles with naval warships in miniature were played. The fountain has characteristic low sides, to give the impression it is sinking, and an oval shape pool in which it is immersed. To see all the fountains of Rome is an impossible task. But you cannot miss what the Romans call the “fontanone” (big fountain), the Fountain of Acqua Paola, at just a few meters from the Academy of Spain on the Janiculum hill, with the panoramic view it offers.

While enjoying these wonderful places, look carefully around. Less showy but very special, there are more than 2,500 fountains cylindrical in shape, mostly of cast iron but also some of travertine, that dot the territory of Rome. The citizens call them big noses. Their origin dates back to the Roman expansion and the creation of the aqueducts. Even the Four Rivers is actually ranked among the most famous big noses, along with that embedded in the wall in via della Fontanella Borghese. One of the oldest big noses still in operation is located in Piazza della Rotonda, while a modern reconstruction with the three classic scuppers is located in via delle Tre Cannelle. In any case, the most valuable are those noses adorned with the coats of arms or symbols of the historic districts. They are particularly sought after in the summer for a sip of fresh water when the heat becomes unbearable, so much that Acea, which operates the public water of Rome, issued an app with a map of the typical fountains.

Fontana di Trevi by night

Fontana delle Tartarughe a Roma

Fontana Acqua Paola a Roma

Bellissimo nosone a Roma

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