A quick promise: Trevi Fountain will be the most beautiful you’ll ever see.
It’s one of the most visited monuments in the world, yet we’re pretty sure we can surprise you with some less notorious facts about this marvellous symbol of Rome’s beauty.
Here’s everything to know before visiting the unmissable stop on your Rome holiday.
Trevi Fountain is the largest fountain in the city.
It measures some 20 meters in width by 26 meters in height.
But this extraordinary work of art is much more than a sculpture: it encapsulates Baroque aesthetics and pays tribute to the natural beauty of stone and water.
In approaching Trevi Square you’ll be guided by a gentle hiss running of water heard in the alleys nearby and once you reach it you’ll be met by an intense yet somehow soothing rushing water sound.
It’s a mesmerising effect.
Here’s fun fact #1: the name ‘Trevi’ derives from Tre Vie (three streets/ways), since the fountain is located at the intersection of three streets.
But when was the Trevi Fountain built?
Why did they build it and what do all its statues represent?
Let’s find out.
Trevi Fountain History
Piazza di Trevi is the end point of one of eleven aqueducts that used to supply Rome with water: l’Acquedotto Vergine (the Acqua Vergine) which is found 12 kilometers away.
Today it’s the only still active aqueduct dating to Roman times.
Built in 19 BC by Marco Agrippa (admiral/hydraulic engineer serving Emperor Augustus), Virgo Aqueduct not only supplied the city’s water but also the first public baths in Rome.
Its name comes from a legend where Agrippa’s thirsty soldiers were guided to water by a virgin girl.
The fountain was initially made of three pools up until 1453 when Pope Nicholas V commissioned its restoration to Leon Battista Alberti, who replaced the three pools with a single much bigger one.
This is where Romans drew spring water.
It was only with Pope Urbano VII Barberini that a real restoration of the fountain was planned.
The Pope wanted a picturesque and grandiose fountain that would be visible from his home at the Quirinale. In 1640 he commissioned the work to the great sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
What Bernini proposed was super expensive.
There wasn’t enough money so the Pope increased wine taxes (a terribly unpopular move) but it still wasn’t enough to get the fountain going. Long story short, neither the Pope nor Bernini lived long enough to see the fountain.
In 1730 Pope Clement XII Corsini resumed the project and assigned it to Roman architect Nicola Salvi: winner of a competition among the best artists of the time.
Works began in 1732.
Salvi embodied the spirit of late Baroque with his masterpiece of flowing, splashing water crashing against rocks and creating a very impressive waterfall reproduction.
The light play is all the more remarkable contrasting the neo-classical facade of Palazzo Poli in the background.
Salvi’s work represents a perfect synthesis between architecture, sculpture, and natural elements where the fundamental theme is movement.
It’s the continuous changing of things where water by its very nature is the symbol.
Again, both Clement XII and Nicola Salvi died before its completion so it was handed over to sculptor Pietro Bracci who along with Giuseppe Pannini gave the fountain its final appearance.
Today’s Trevi Fountain was officially inaugurated on Sunday, May 22nd 1762.
Trevi Fountain Statues
The sculptures characterizing the fountain were created after the death of Salvi, but still following his design and iconography.
The most famous statue is the one carved by Pietro Bracci and representing Oceanus: a mythological personification of the sea.
The fountain itself is a gigantic tribute to this divine figure and to the aqueduct built in his honor.
The main scene is dominated by Oceanus’s shell-shaped carriage standing on a rocky-cliff and pulled by two winged horses and two tritons (young demigods, half fish and half men).
One horse is calm and obedient while the other is rambunctious: together they symbolise the changing, fickle nature of the sea. One of the tritons is blowing into a shell: this sound was believed to calm sea storms and heralded the arrival of the god of the sea.
Next to Oceanus there are statues representing Acqua Vergine’s benefits: Abundance to the left holds a cornucopia and pours water from an amphora. On the right Health gives water to a sacred snake.
Above them there is a bas-relief illustrating the legendary origins of Acqua Vergine: it portrays Marco Agrippa and the virgin girl who guided his thirsty soldiers to the source of water.
Even further above the whole scene is Pope Clemente XII’s coat of arms in marmour surrounded by four statues representing the four seasons.
Trevi Fountain Facts
The Trevi fountain is made all the more legendary by the many tales and anecdotes linked to it.
One of the most interesting explains the origins of the sculpture located on the right side of the fountain representing a large vase. It is known as the Asso di Coppe (Ace of Clubs) because it resembles the traditional playing card symbol.
Apparently it was placed there by Nicola Salvi himself to block a local barber’s view of the fountain – the man working in a nearby shop used to torment the artist with negative comments about the work.
The vase in the sculpture resembles a typical amphora used in barber shops at the time.
Revenge or not – to this day the sculpture still completely blocks the view of the fountain.
Another, much more romantic legend concerns the little fountain located right by the Asso di Coppe, also created by Salvi: the Fountain of Lovers.
The name of this much less known fountain with a rectangular basin and two crossing jets of water comes from a legendary Roman ritual.
Girls used to perform this before their soldier lovers went off to war: taking them to drink the water from the fountain and then break the glasses.
This ritual was believed to ensure that their lover would stay loyal to them and to Rome.
Visiting Trevi Fountain with your loved one? Make sure to bring a glass and smash it!
Still looking for love? Then it’s time to throw in some coins.
According to the most famous Roman legend of all time one should not leave the city before having tossed at least one coin into the Trevi Fountain.
Apparently it’s the more the better!
- One coin will make you return to Rome again
- Two coins will help you meet the love of your life
- Three coins will ensure you marry the person you love
This was popularized in the 1954 Oscar winning film Three Coins in the Fountain. Since then it’s estimated that €1,500,000 is tossed into the fountain every year.
What happens to the Trevi Fountain coins?
Romans tell stories of how as kids they used buy sweets and cigarettes with coins scooped out from the fountain – but that’s likely not the case anymore.
However today Trevi’s money is much better spent on historical site maintenance and on donations to charities.
Trevi Fountain and Pop Culture
Three Coins isn’t the only movie that made Trevi Fountain famous.
Its appearance in the most iconic scene of Fellini’s Dolce Vita with Anita Ekberg and Marcello Mastroianni bathing made this corner of the city the undisputed symbol of Italian cinema.
If you’re visiting Rome in summertime it’s likely you’ll want to take a dip in the Trevi Fountain, but remember that we are not living a movie fantasy and it’s prohibited: the fin is up to €450.00.
In January 2013 fashion house Fendi made a $2.4 million restoration investment of the Trevi Fountain and brought the monument back to its original splendor.
During the 17 months of restoration, 3 million visitors were able to admire the monument thanks to a panoramic, transparent walkway which offered a unique perspective of the fountain.
To mark the restoration Fendi hosted an event in July 2016 to celebrate 90 years since the opening of its Roman atelier, with an unprecedented runway show on a transparent catwalk over the water.
Trevi Fountain aas also hosted protest performances: in 2017 activist Graziano Cecchini managed to enter the main tank and pour red dye in the water before being stopped by the police.
Cecchini wasn’t new to this type of performance and did it 10 years before in 2007.
In explaining his motives he said:
In 10 years few things have changed, many of them for the worse. Rome has always been the mirror of the country and today it is lifeless, dull, and numb in the midst of its dirt and corruption. Ten years later, I repeat my performance to try and shake it awake. The red Trevi Fountain is a cry to say that Rome is not dead, it is alive and ready to be the capital of art, of life, of rebirth.
Another performer who made headlines is the Spanish artist Adrián Pino Olivera. In April 2017 he entered the fountain naked, drawing a connection between his naked body and the sanctity of art.
Contemporary western society limits our freedom, pushes us to think only within pre-established schemes. We must free ourselves from this mask, present ourselves naked to the world: this is the key to true happiness.
Agree with Olivera or not, I strongly suggest you limit this creative spirit!
How to Get to Trevi Fountain
Normally you reach Trevi Square by Metro Line A (red) getting off at the Barberini station.
This station is closed at the moment for reparation works so check out our Rome metro article for updates on the construction.
You can also get there by bus 64, 85, 80, 492, 63 and 590.
The Trevi Fountain is walking distance from Piazza di Spagna, the Pantheon, and via del Corso.
When’s the best time to see Trevi Fountain?
I suggest seeing Trevi Fountain at night or early in the morning, are the best times as there are less tourists and street sellers.
Also, before you head there you can always check the live Trevi Fountain webcam to give you an idea of the crowd you’re going to have to deal with,
If you’re considering going by car I strongly recommend you don’t!
Most of Rome’s historic centre is a restricted traffic area with tons of traffic limitations and finding a decent parking spot is nearly impossible.
In general, driving is not the most convenient way to get around the city.
What to See in the Area
You are in the heart of the Historic Centre included in the UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
Wherever your feet will take you, you can be sure you’ll end up discovering some gem of incomparable artistic and historic value.
Here are some of the places you’ll find at easy walking distance:
- PIAZZA COLONNA: Less than 300 meters away from Trevi you’ll find this rather somber square dominated by an impressive 30 meter tall marble column built in honor of the emperor Marcus Aurelius after his death (180 AD).
- ALBERTO SORDI GALLERY: Together with the nearby Via del Corso, it’s a good place to spend a few relaxing hours of shopping.
- PIAZZA DI SPAGNA: In less then a 10 minute walk you can reach yet another gorgeous, super popular square. The famous XVIII century Spanish Steps connect the square to the Church of Trinità dei Monti and with the Barcaccia Fountain by Pietro Bernini, the father of another great sculpturist Gian Lorenzo, who completed the works in 1629.
- PANTHEON: The best preserved of all the ancient Roman buildings and probably the most impressive.
- PIAZZA BARBERINI: Rome has always had a special connection with water and paid homage to it with fountains in every corner and square of the city. Here, for example, you’ll see two more works by Baroque sculpture Gian Lorenzo Bernini: Fontana del Tritone (Triton Fountain) carved in travertine and the much smaller Fontana delle Api (Fountain of the Bees).
Restaurants Near Trevi Fountain
The first place I recommend is Baccano: a stylish, Parisian-like bistro with high quality food and a good selection of drinks, tasty cocktails and reasonable prices for this expensive area of the city.
If you fancy a gourmet pizza (cooked in a 100 year old wood oven) and/or Roman traditional cuisine, Piccolo Buco is the place for you.
The best place in the area for homemade ice cream and desserts is definitely gelateria Antonietta Cecere: everything is delicious in this old school gelateria but for something different I’d suggest you try coffee with a scoop or two of their incredible eggnog semifreddo.
Once again, unfortunately, you will find yourself in tourist trap hell, but if you stick to the my advice I promise you’ll be safe from bad surprises.
Ask Me Anything About Rome
If you’ve got any questions about Trevi Fountain or are looking for any custom advice remember that I am always here to answer you in the comments below!
And don’t be afraid to join the Rome holiday discussion by first giving me a like on Facebook and then joining my group I’m Off to Rome – here you can ask any questions, air out grievances, and chat with fellow travellers.