Trevi is Rome’s largest Baroque fountain and perhaps the most stunning you’ll ever see. The fountain stands a massive 85 feet tall and is almost 65 feet wide.
Tourists throw about 3,000 euros worth of coins into the Trevi Fountain every day. Legend says throwing coins into the fountain will ensure you’ll return to Rome. This tradition pretty much guarantees that it will always be the most visited.
Every day the city collects the coins out of the fountain and gives them to charity. So, as well as guaranteeing your return to Rome you are helping to feed the neediest people in the city.
There are seats around the basin where you can sit, soak in the atmosphere and enjoy the fountain. Be aware though that it is prohibited to eat food around the fountain, and there are usually several eagle-eyed police on patrol. This is a real pity as there are some excellent gelato shops nearby.
If you want a nice walk through the centre of Rome, see my walk from the Spanish Steps to the Piazza Navona which passes the Trevi Fountain.
History of the Trevi Fountain
The ancient Romans built a series of aqueducts to bring fresh water to the city. Eleven in total were built over a 500 year period. These terminated in various parts of the city. One of the most important was the Aqua Virgo. This brought water from a spring that was discovered in 19 BC.
The aqueducts were all broken in the sixth century by besieging goths. Eight were later restored in the Renaissance, each one terminating in an elegant fountain. The first to be restored was the Aqua Virgo (now called the Aqua Vergine) in 1453. This originally terminated in a simple basin. Later the fountain was re-sited to face the Quirinal Palace, then a Papal residence, and the new design by Niccolo Salvi, was eventually completed in 1762.
The fountain is mostly built from travertine stone. This is a mineral made of calcium carbonate. During construction, many men were injured and some died, crushed by the enormous stone blocks.
The fountain has a triumphal arch set against the facade of the Palazzo Poli. The large sculpture depicts the god Oceanus and two tritons taming unruly winged sea horses among tumbling rocks.
Unlike other Roman fountains, Trevi is not the centrepiece of a busy piazza. It hides away in a small square at the junction of narrow lanes (Tre Vie – Three Streets). It almost completely fills the square. Approaching the fountain from any direction you’ll hear it before you see it. Over the roar of the water, you hear the sound of raised voices of the crowd gathered around the pool. The square is always full of tourists jostling to reach the rail so they can throw a coin into the pool and take the obligatory selfie. The precise legend says you should stand with your back to the fountain and toss a coin over your left shoulder with your right hand to guarantee a return trip to Rome.
La Dolce Vita
La Dolce Vita is a 1960’s comedy-drama film which was directed and co-written by Federico Fellini. The film follows a journalist Marcello Rubini, over seven days and nights on his journey through Rome in a fruitless search for love and happiness. La Dolce Vita won the Palme d’Or (Golden Palm) at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival and the Oscar for Best Costumes. The film was a worldwide box-office success and is now frequently regarded as one of the greatest films in world cinema. In a famous scene in the film, Marcello and actress Sylvia (Anita Ekberg) splash around together in the Trevi Fountain. Unlike today though, in the film the square is completely empty. The fountain has also appeared in several other films including Roman Holiday, Three Coins in the Fountain and The Lizzie McGuire Movie.
Other things to do in Rome
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