Fixing Rome’s Fountains

P1090315On my way to my Italian class recently, I stopped for a caffè macchiato, and a newspaper was lying on the counter of the bar. On the front was a photo of the Trevi Fountain, so I picked the paper up to see what was going on. Last summer some pieces fell off of the fountain, and I was hoping that it was going to be repaired. Well, it is, and that’s not all. Many Italian businesses are donating money to restore several of Rome’s fountains. For example, Fendi is ponying up some $3 million to fix the Trevi Fountain. Everyone knows the Trevi Fountain (completed in 1762), but you may not know some of the other fountains that are being restored.

P1080549In addition to the Trevi Fountain, one of my favorite fountains is the Fontana dell’ Obelisco (the Fountain of the Obelisk) in the center of Piazza del Popolo. In this fountain four lions surround an obelisk and spit water into the air. These lions are so gentle and so irresistible that children and, well, almost everyone else, feel impelled to climb on them. (You’ll be pleased, relieved, and maybe surprised to learn that I’ve resisted doing that.) Perhaps after the restoration the lions will be roped off so they can rest in peace.

P1110024If you’ve seen the Spanish Steps, you may have noticed the Fontana della Barcaccia at the bottom. According to Wiki, “It is so named because it is in the shape of a half-sunken ship with water overflowing its bows. The fountain was completed in 1627 by Pietro Bernini and his son, Gian Lorenzo Bernini [the Bernini who designed so many famous sculptures, as well as the baldachin in St. Peter’s Basilica]. The shape was chosen because prior to the river walls being built, the Tiber often flooded. In 1598 there was a particularly bad flood, and once the water withdrew, a boat was left behind in Piazza di Spagna.” Now the Barcaccia isn’t my favorite fountain by far; in fact, I pay scarcely any attention to it when I pass the Spanish Steps, but I’m glad it’s being restored.

Bernini’s Fontana del Tritone (1642-43) in Piazza Barberini (at the foot of Via Veneto) is already under wraps, so I can’t take a photo for you. But you can see what it looked like before the restoration here. Frankly, I’m usually too busy dodging traffic and trying to cross the street safely to pay much attention to this fountain. I’ll do better when the restoration is finished.

The Goddess Juno (on the northwest corner)

The Goddess Juno (on the northwest corner)

Have you ever heard of the Quattro Fontane (the Four Fountains)? I never had, so after I read the newspaper article, I headed over to Quirinale to see the fountains before the restoration work begins. Just seeing these fountains is a miracle and requires tremendous patience, because they are located on the four corners of two busy streets—Via delle Quattro Fontane and Via del Quirinale—and if cars, trucks, and buses aren’t in the way, people are. Installed between 1588 and 1593, the fountains are beautiful, but except for the River Arno on the southeastern corner, they look as if they’ve had 400+ years of hard living—they are filthy! (Why is the River Arno relatively clean? Location, location, location?) I’d put these four gems at the top of the restoration list.

P1100999Another candidate for the top of the list is the fountain in Piazza Trilussa, just across the Tevere (Tiber) from us. I’m embarrassed to admit that I never knew that the structure was a fountain until I read that it was being restored. A couple of weeks ago after stopping for my favorite gelato in Rome at Bar Latteria, I marched up the steps of the large fountain, and sure enough, two dragons and two lions spit (well, dribble) water into a shallow pond. One description of the fountain says, “Water flows from an opening in the side part of the niche and falls into a shell from which it then flows loudly into a basin at street level.” That may have happened at one time, but no water falls from the shell today. Although the fountain was built in 1613 at the Ponte Sisto end of Via Giulia, the street behind our apartment, it was moved across the river in 1879.

If you’re planning a trip to Rome in the next couple of years, these fountains may be under construction. If you’re lucky, you may get to see glorious restorations. I’m hoping for the latter!


P.S., Tod’s, the shoe company, is donating $34 million to repair the Colosseo, and Diesel, the clothing and apparel company, is donating about $6 million to repair the Rialto Bridge in Venice. Good job!

Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain

Piazza del Popolo - Fountain of the Obelisk

Piazza del Popolo – Fountain of the Obelisk

Barcaccia - detail

Barcaccia – detail

Quattro Fontane - goddess Diana (northwest corner)

Quattro Fontane – goddess Diana (northwest corner)

Quattro Fontane - River Arno (southeast corner)

Quattro Fontane – River Arno (southeast corner)

Quattro Fontane - River Tiber (southwest corner)

Quattro Fontane – River Tiber (southwest corner)

Trilussa dragon

Trilussa dragon

Trilussa lion

Trilussa lion

Trilussa - the shell is at the top

Trilussa – the shell is at the top

This entry was posted in Rome attractions and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Fixing Rome’s Fountains

  1. Meredith Prock says:

    I may have told you that “popolo” in Hawaiian means blackberry bush and in common usage has come to mean people of African descent. BTW, do you read the newspaper in Italian?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s