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Trevi Fountain

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Title: Trevi Fountain  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Fountain, Pietro Bracci, Trevi (rione of Rome), Quirinal Hill, Hippocampus (mythology)
Collection: Fountains in Rome, Infrastructure Completed in 1762, Roman Baroque, Rome R. II Trevi, Sculptures in Italy
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain
Italian: Fontana di Trevi
Artist Nicola Salvi
Year 1762 (1762)
Type Public fountain
Material Stone
Dimensions 26.3 m × 49.15 m (86 ft × 161.3 ft)
Location Trevi, Rome, Italy

The Trevi Fountain (Italian: Fontana di Trevi) is a fountain in the Trevi district in Rome, Italy, designed by Italian architect Nicola Salvi and completed by Pietro Bracci. Standing 26.3 metres (86 ft) high and 49.15 metres (161.3 ft) wide,[1] it is the largest Baroque fountain in the city and one of the most famous fountains in the world. The fountain has appeared in several notable films, including Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita.


  • History before 1629 1
  • Legends 2
  • Commission, construction, and design 3
  • Restoration 4
  • Iconography 5
    • Coin throwing 5.1
  • In popular culture 6
  • Curiosity 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10

History before 1629

Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy

The fountain at the junction of three roads (tre vie)[2] marks the terminal point[3] of the "modern" Acqua Vergine, the revived Aqua Virgo, one of the aqueducts that supplied water to ancient Rome. In 19 BC, supposedly with the help of a virgin, Roman technicians located a source of pure water some 13 km (8.1 mi) from the city. (This scene is presented on the present fountain's façade.) However, the eventual indirect route of the aqueduct made its length some 22 km (14 mi). This Aqua Virgo led the water into the Baths of Agrippa. It served Rome for more than 400 years.[4]


Legend holds that in 19 BC thirsty Roman soldiers were guided by a young girl to a source of pure water thirteen kilometers from the city of Rome. The discovery of the source led Augustus to commission the construction of a twenty-two kilometer aqueduct leading into the city, which was named Aqua Virgo, or Virgin Waters, in honor of the legendary young girl. The aqueduct served the hot Baths of Agrippa, and Rome, for over four hundred years.

Commission, construction, and design

In 1629 Pope Urban VIII, finding the earlier fountain insufficiently dramatic, asked Gian Lorenzo Bernini to sketch possible renovations, but the project was abandoned when the pope died. Though Bernini's project was never constructed, there are many Bernini touches in the fountain as it exists today. An early, influential model by Pietro da Cortona, preserved in the Albertina, Vienna, also exists, as do various early 18th century sketches, most unsigned, as well as a project attributed to Nicola Michetti[5] one attributed to Ferdinando Fuga[6] and a French design by Edme Bouchardon.[7]

Trevi Fountain at night

Competitions had become the rage during the Nicola Salvi initially lost to Alessandro Galilei – but due to the outcry in Rome over the fact that a Florentine won, Salvi was awarded the commission anyway.[8] Work began in 1732 and the fountain was completed in 1762, long after Salvi's death, when Pietro Bracci's Oceanus (god of all water) was set in the central niche.

Salvi died in 1751 with his work half finished, but he had made sure a stubborn barber's unsightly sign would not spoil the ensemble, hiding it behind a sculpted vase, called by Romans the asso di coppe, the "Ace of Cups".

The Trevi Fountain was finished in 1762 by Giuseppe Pannini, who substituted the present allegories for planned sculptures of Agrippa and "Trivia", the Roman virgin. It was officially opened and inaugurated on May 22 by Pope Clemens XIII It remains one of the most historical cultural landmarks in Rome.

The majority of the piece is made from Travertine stone, quarried near Tivoli, about 35 kilometers east of Rome.[9]


Trevi Fountain papal coat of arms

The fountain was refurbished in 1998; the stonework was scrubbed and all cracks and other areas of deterioration were repaired by skilled artisans and the fountain was equipped with recirculating pumps.

In January 2013, it was announced that the Italian fashion company Fendi would sponsor a 20-month, 2.2-million-euro restoration of the fountain; it will be the most thorough restoration in the fountain's history.[10]

As of December 2014, peak winter tourist season, the fountain pool is empty and scaffolding covers the fountain. There is a fence around the fountain and visitors are being directed away from the site (though this didn't seem to be happening in mid-Nov. 2014). Visitors are allowed to walk across a narrow platform over the fountain in front of the scaffolding allowing for an up-close view of the statues; they can throw coins into the empty fountain but only on the outer side of the platform. There is however, a small pool of water from the fountain where tourists may throw their coins (there was no water at all in the fountain in mid-Nov. 2014). It is expected to remain closed until December 2015.


The backdrop for the fountain is the Palazzo Poli, given a new façade with a giant order of Corinthian pilasters that link the two main stories. Taming of the waters is the theme of the gigantic scheme that tumbles forward, mixing water and rockwork, and filling the small square. Tritons guide Oceanus' shell chariot, taming hippocamps.

In the centre a robustly-modelled triumphal arch is superimposed on the palazzo façade. The centre niche or exedra framing Oceanus has free-standing columns for maximal light and shade. In the niches flanking Oceanus, Abundance spills water from her urn and Salubrity holds a cup from which a snake drinks. Above, bas reliefs illustrate the Roman origin of the aqueducts.

The tritons and horses provide symmetrical balance, with the maximum contrast in their mood and poses (by 1730, rococo was already in full bloom in France and Germany).

Coin throwing

Trevi Fountain filled with coins

Coins are purportedly meant to be thrown using the right hand over the left shoulder. This was the theme of 1954's Three Coins in the Fountain and the Academy Award-winning song by that name which introduced the picture.

An estimated 3,000 Euros are thrown into the fountain each day.[11] The money has been used to subsidize a supermarket for Rome's needy;[11] however, there are regular attempts to steal coins from the fountain.[11][12][13]

In popular culture

The Trevi Fountain is featured in Respighi's symphonic pictures Fontane di Roma, and was the setting for an iconic scene in Federico Fellini's film La Dolce Vita starring Anita Ekberg and Marcello Mastroianni. The fountain was turned off and draped in black in honor of Mastroianni after the actor's death in 1996. Shirley MacLaine and Christopher Plummer recreate the La Dolce Vita scene in the 2014 film Elsa & Fred. The fountain is used for some scenes in the 1953 film Roman Holiday, starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. The fountain is also featured in the 1963 film Gidget Goes to Rome and the 2003 The Lizzie McGuire Movie. Part of the fountain is replicated at the Italy Pavilion at Epcot in Walt Disney World, United States. The fountain itself is also a stage in Tekken Tag Tournament 2. In Season 2, Episode 5 of the anime Strike Witches, in an impromptu tour of Rome, Francesca Lucchini explains to her newfound friend Maria the significance and symbolism of Trevi Fountain.


In 1973, Italian National Postal Service dedicated to Trevi Fountain a postage stamp.

See also


  1. ^ "Trevi Fountain". 
  2. ^ Though other etymologies have been suggested, this is the straightforward modern etymology adopted by Pinto 1986 and others.
  3. ^ The technical Italian term for such a "terminal fountain" is a ("display"): Peter J. Aicher, "Terminal Display Fountains ("Mostre") and the Aqueducts of Ancient Rome" Phoenix 47.4 (Winter 1993:339–352).
  4. ^ Pintochs.yes I and II.
  5. ^ John A. Pinto, "An Early Project by Nicola Michetti for the Trevi Fountain" The Burlington Magazine 119 No. 897 (December 1977:853–857).
  6. ^ Pinto, John; Elisabeth Kieven (December 1983). "An Early Project by Ferdinando Fuga for the Trevi Fountain in Rome". The Burlington Magazine 125: 746–749, 751. 
  7. ^ Pinto 1986. Bouchardon's drawing is conserved in the Musée Vivènal, Compiègne.
  8. ^ Gross, Hanns (1990). Rome in the Age of Enlightenment: the Post-Tridentine syndrome and the ancient regime. New York: Cambridge University Press. p. 28.  
  9. ^ "The Trevi Fountain – The most beautiful fountain in the world". Retrieved 23 February 2014. 
  10. ^ Pullella, Philip (29 January 2013). "Rome Trevi Fountain, symbol of Dolce Vita, to get big facelift".  
  11. ^ a b c "Trevi coins to fund food for poor". BBC News. 26 November 2006. Retrieved 18 January 2010. 
  12. ^ "Trevi coins row re-surfaces". BBC News. 8 October 2003. Retrieved 18 January 2010. 
  13. ^ "Trevi fountain 'copycat' thieves arrested". BBC News. 9 August 2002. Retrieved 18 January 2010. 
  • Pinto, John A. (1986). The Trevi Fountain. New Haven:  

External links

  • "Aerial view of Trevi Fountain.". Google Maps. Retrieved 6 August 2007. The fountain is the blue rounded rectangle in the centre of the photo, just west of the Quirinal Palace.
  • Roman Bookshelf – Trevi Fountain – Views from the 18th and 19th centuries
  • Trevi Fountain Virtual 360° panorama and photo gallery.
  • Engraving of the fountain's more modest predecessor.
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