What IS It about a Fountain?

The basin of Fontana dell’Acqua Paola–so tempting!

On Friday I walked to Gianicolo (Janiculum Hill—not one of the ancient Seven Hills of Rome), which rises to the west of Trastevere. It was almost noon on a really hot day, and when I came around a corner to feast my eyes on my second favorite fountain in Rome, the Fontana dell’Acqua Paola, all I could see was the gorgeous teal basin, and all I wanted to do was jump in and cool off! I didn’t, of course, and not just because of the guards stationed across the street to prevent people from doing just that, I suppose.

Fountain on the street behind our house–we irreverently call it the spitting Jesus

Fountains here, fountains there, fountains everywhere would describe Rome. Big fountains, little fountains, and the adorable fountains for drinking water (called nasoni, which means “big nose” because of the spout) surprise me at every turn. My favorite, of course, is the Trevi Fountain. Apparently it’s everyone’s favorite, because during prime tourist hours, you have to elbow your way through the crowd just to get from one side of the piazza to the other. Other favorites include Fontana della Tartarughe (the fountain of the tortoises) in the Jewish Ghetto, the spouting lions in Piazza del Popolo, and, although they’re really in Tivoli, the fountains at Villa d’Este.

Bathtub fountain in Piazza Farnese (Fontana della Piazza Farnese)

What IS it about a fountain? Birds love fountains, dogs love fountains, and children of all ages are drawn irresistibly to fountains. During breakfast at Caffè Farnese a few weeks ago, I watched a blonde toddler who had obviously just begun to walk (you know the tentative, awkward, excited steps that I’m talking about) spot one of the two huge bathtub fountains in Piazza Farnese (believed to have once been in the Baths of Caracalla and moved to Piazza Farnese in the 16th century) and make a beeline toward it, holding his arms up and pointing wildly. Nothing would do until his dad picked him up and walked him around the wall surrounding the fountain four times, the child’s face beaming as he clapped his hands.

When I see fountains in Rome, I want to clap my hands as well—they make me so happy. Below are a few of my favorites.


Drinking fountain in the snow

P.S., The drinking water in Rome is abundant, clean, and good. People constantly stop at nasoni and have a swallow or fill their water bottles or wash their hands and face (or sometimes take a spit bath!), which is perfectly fine and safe. But when people dip their water bottles to fill them in the fountains of Rome, all I can think of is dogs swimming (et cetera) in the water, birds floating (et cetera) in the water, and people trailing their hands (dirty or clean) through the water. Yuck! People, don’t do that!

Remember St. Eustachio–the church with the deer’s head on the roof? Here’s a nearby fountain!

Bernini’s Four Rivers Fountain in Piazza Navona

Bernini’s Four Rivers Fountain in Piazza Navona

Fountain at the south end of Piazza Navona (in February)

Cleaning one of the bathtub fountains in Piazza Farnese

Top of the Fontana dell’Acqua Paola

Detail of the Fontana dell’Acqua Paola

Dragon guarding Fontana dell’Acqua Paola

Fontana dell’Acqua Paola last week

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