Updated: Aug 22, 2020
Rome was an empire built on water. This life-source has been free-flowing for more than 2,000 years from over 2,000 fountains throughout the Eternal City.
While there are lots of stunning fountains, Trevi Fountain (Fontana di Trevi) should be at the top of your list of must-sees. The Trevi Fountain is a magnificent display of Rome’s love affair with water. Trevi is the largest most famous Baroque fountain in all of Rome; some would even say it's one of the most famous fountains in the world!
Did you know?
1. The Trevi Fountain uses a lot of water
The fountain is about 86 feet high (26.3 meters) and 65 feet wide (20 meters). The fountain spills 80,000 cubic meters of water (or 2,824,800 cubic feet) of water every day; that’s nearly enough water to fill an Olympic size swimming pool! There’s no need to stress about water conservation, though. Unlike during ancient Roman times when the water arrived direct from the aqueduct, the water is recycled.
2. It’s one of Rome’s oldest source of water
Trevi Fountain’s history goes all the way back to 19 BC to the Aqua Virgo Aqueduct. Legend says Aqua Virgo (virgin waters) was named honoring a young Roman girl who would lead thirsty soldiers to the fountain for a drink.
3. The three-street fountain
Literally. Fontana di Trevi means Three Street Fountain. The fountain ceremoniously marks the end of the Aqua Virgo aqueduct at the junction of three streets; Trevi are Via De’ Crocicchi, Via Poli, and Via Delle Muratte.
4. It’s a crime to sit on it
Or any fountain in Rome, for that matter. It’s also a crime to wash your feet in the fountain, have water fights, or allow your pet to drink from it! Want to try your luck? Be careful. The fines range from €180 to €450 ($200-$500), depending on the importance of the fountain.
5. The government takes the coins
Legend says, throw a coin over your shoulder into Rome’s Trevi Fountain and it will bring you good fortune and you will one day return to the Eternal City. This tradition of throwing coins into water dates back to when ancient Roman sailors would throw coins into the water as an offering to the god of water, Neptune, for their safe return home.
But, what actually happens to the money?
Every night, the municipality of Rome collects the coins from the Trevi Fountain to prevent them from being stolen. For years, the coins were used by Catholic charity Caritas to fund soup kitchens, social assistance programs and a homeless shelter, among other things. Until April 2019. In a controversial and unpopular decision, Mayor Virginia Raggi has decided to take control of the 1.5 million euros ($1.7m) that tourists toss into the Italian capital city’s iconic fountain and redirect the funds towards the maintenance of cultural sites and social welfare projects.
What would Neptune say?
6. Salvi wasn’t the original architect
In 1629, Bernini was asked to sketch a design for a new fountain after Pope Urban VIII found the earlier fountain to be lackluster. The idea of a grand redesign was put on hold for nearly 100 years after Pope Urban died.
In the 1730’s, the idea was revived and the Pope at the time, Pope Clement XII, held a design competition. Alessandro Galilei won the competition. But due to public outrage over a Florentine having won, the commission was awarded to Salvi, a native Roman.
The Trevi Fountain work started in 1732. The work was only half finished when Salvi died in 1751. Four different sculptors were hired to complete the fountain’s decorations and Giuseppe Pannini was hired as the architect. It took 30 years to complete.
7. It’s made from the same stone as the Colosseum
The majority of the fountain is made from Travertine stone, quarried near Tivoli, about 35 kilometers (22 miles) east of Rome.
Working with large pieces of stone was (and still is) very dangerous. Many men were injured and several even died during the construction. In 1734 a stone-cutter was crushed by a large block of travertine. A stone mason fell from a roof and died in 1736. In 1740, an apprentice slipped on wet Travertine and passed away from head injuries.