Rome’s most beautiful fountains: all their secrets revealed

Rome has many wonderful fountains. You can admire them on the most fascinating squares of the Eternal City. But did you know that they hide some…secrets?

The Fontana della Barcaccia, at the foot of the Spanish Steps, was realized by Gian Lorenzo Bernini who was inspired by the legend of a boat left right at the center of the square, after a devastating flood of the Tiber in the end of the 17th century.

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Fontana della Barcaccia (Spanish Steps)

The Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of four rivers), which is located in the awesome piazza Navona and it was realized as well by Bernini, takes its name from the major rivers of the four continents known at the time. The Nile representing Africa and the Danube symbolizing Europe, the Ganges indicating Asia and the Rio de La Plata for the Americas. Legend says Bernini is also represented in one of the figures of the fountain, protecting himself with his arm from the church in front of it,  which he feared would collapse. The architect of the church in front was Borromini and the two artists had a conflictual relationship dued to a strong rivalry.

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Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Piazza Navona) Photo credit: emilyjanefoster1-Instagram

The Fontana delle Naiadi (Fountain of Naiads) is situated at the center of Piazza della Repubblica. It was inaugurated at the beginning of 20th century and is the work of sculptor Mario Rutelli, who was in charge to replace the existing one. It represents the Nymph of the Lakes,the Nymph of the Rivers, the Nymph of the Underground waters and the Nymph of the Oceans.

The particularly sensual and lascivious position of the statues, and the sheen of their wet bodies, turned out to be an immoral image for the conservative wing that was still alive in the city. So it was covered by a wooden fence to block the view of the monument. The controversy grew, in the name of decency and respectability, and was maintained for a while, but the City decided to embrace the progressive thesis and removed the fence.

In 1912, finally, the fountain took on its final appearance which still maintains, with a naked male figure grasping a dolphin in the center.

Fontana delle Naiadi (Piazza della Repubblica) Photo credit: marsancho88-Instagram

Fontana delle Naiadi (Piazza della Repubblica) Photo credit: marsancho88-Instagram

La Fontana dell’Acqua Paola (also called Er Fontanone) is located on the Gianicolo hill.

It appears in a famous song by Italian singer Antonello Venditti

Quanto sei bella Roma quann’è sera, quanno la luna se specchia dentro ar Fontanone (How beautiful you are oh Rome in the evenings, when the moon reflects itself inside the Fontanone)

and in a lot of Italian and international movies, like “La grande bellezza” (The Great Beauty)  and “Spectre”.

Er Fontanone (Gianicolo) Photo credit: sonofliberty90-Instagram

Er Fontanone (Gianicolo) Photo credit: sonofliberty90-Instagram

Regarding the most impressive of Rome’s fountain, Fontana di Trevi (the Trevi Fountain), we all know that if you throw a coin into it, you’ll be back  to the Eternal City.

Fontana di Trevi

Fontana di Trevi

Of course it’s not a secret, but a hope (and a heartfelt wish).

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Sex And The Eternal City

Passion, intrigue, jealousy, love… emotions come to life – in Rome every piece of marble and stone tells a story. A common story of us being human. And how being human makes our life an extraordinary story.

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Let’s follow someone who knew a thing or two about human emotions and telling stories that last for centuries to come.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini is a symbol for the city. He was more than an artist, a sculptor, he was a universal artistic genius. Trough his live, dynamic, passionate art he remains a palpable presence in his beloved Rome. Take a walk to discover the taste of his open air museum that the Eternal City was, with the help of three cornerstones of his immense art.

Our all time favourite museum is where we start. Galleria Borghese is situated in the beautiful park of Villa Borghese.The museum hosts several Bernini sculptures, like Apollo and Daphne, David, but our call here is the Rape of Proserpina.

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Bernini’s art  (especially the scupltures) is very personal, therefore the beauty and value of it can not completely be explained by guides or essays – more it is a vivid sensation of each one of us when getting close to one of his masterpieces. Did we mention he finished this one when he was 23? Let’s look at it again. 23. The marbel seems clay or wax under Bernini’s hands, it’s hard to find appropriate words to describe the majesty and the dynamic, alive presence of the composition in the huge museum hall. Ok, there’s one. Goosebumps.
(Note: to visit Galleria Borghese reservation is aways needed! More info here.)

Next stop is Largo Santa Susanna, the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria. Here we can admire Bernini at his best – as he said, The Extasy of Saint Teresa was his “men cattiva opera”, the least bad piece. A complete theatre scene represents an episode of Teresa d’Avila’s life as she encounters with an angel.

teresa2“I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the iron’s
point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart, and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it. The soul is satisfied now with nothing less than God.”
(Santa Teresa d’Avila, Autobiografia, XXIX, 13)

The outright provoking sexuality, in case of religious themes called also “sacred eroticism” is far from unfamiliar for the Baroque Rome. Not in profane ways, yet it must be taken as it was, a direct intuition of the divine, an engaging internal mysticism experience of the artist.” However Saint Teresa’s Extasy is unquestionably sensual with strong erotic drive, we love the interpretation of Irving Lavin who said “the transverberation becomes a point of contact between earth and heaven, between matter and spirit”.

Let’s move on towards Trastevere, touching Piazza Barberini with Bernini’s Fontana del Tritone, Piazza della Minerva with the Obelisc and walking through the Tiber Island.

Our last stop is in the curch of San Francesco a Ripa, a funerary monument, one of Bernini’s last work.ludovica The Extasy of the Blessed Ludovica Albertoni represents a similar union with the divine like the above described Saint Teresa, presented in a simpler and soberer form. The intimacy of the chapel and the theatrical setting, where Bernini designed with a hidden window the focus of the light on the marble figure’s face, emphasize the artist’s pictorial approach.

Should you need tips & suggestions on where to eat or anything comes in mind, let us know and we’ll be happy to share pearls of our treasurebox! 😉
Route of this walk here.

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BeTreasure tip: plan a special walking tour route following a character or specific element you choose, like angels, dolphins or satyrs.

Our favourite satyr statue, the Barberini Faun is not in Rome but was found below Castel Sant’Angelo and has been restored by the great Gianlorenzo Bernini.