I don’t think there’s a single visitor to Rome who doesn’t have the Trevi Fountain on their bucket list, but there are six surprising facts about the Trevi Fountain you’ve never heard before. In today’s podcast episode Elyssa Bernard from Romewise and I discuss these unusual and little known facts about the Trevi Fountain and a whole lot more!
The Trevi Fountain
Because of the location of the Trevi Fountain it’s inevitable that crowds build up as the space surrounding the fountain is quite limited. Most people who visit the fountain try to find a spot where they can capture the perfect photo and then they head off somewhere else because it’s so unpleasantly crowded in front of the fountain. Here are some great tips on How to Beat the Crowds in Italy once tourism is back in full swing.
If you’re an early riser the best thing to do is head to the fountain around 7 AM when there is almost nobody in the area, and that’s especially so on Sunday mornings when businesses are closed. On Sunday you can drive right up to the fountain because there’s no limit on traffic.
The coins in the Trevi Fountain
Legend has it that you should face away from the Trevi Fountain and throw a coin over your shoulder which means you’ll be back to Rome for a second visit. And the second coin toss means you’ll fall in love with an Italian.
So what happens to all those coins that accumulate daily? They are gathered by Caritas, a social service entity that uses the funds for the needy to help buy groceries.
Where did the name Trevi come from?
Surprising Trevi Fountain Fact #1
There are three streets, or vie - the Italian word for street - that converge upon the fountain. So the name is simply that: the three streets.
The building behind the Trevi Fountain
Once you have absorbed the beauty of the fountain you might look at the building behind the Trevi Fountain and ask yourself what’s behind its windows?
Surprising Trevi Fountain Fact #2
The building is a ducal palace, Palazzo Poli, named after the nearby town of Poli.
Within the Palazzo are the offices of the National Geographic Institute which is busy at work every week day.
The recent Trevi Fountain restoration
When you look at the Trevi Fountain and sculptures, and the palazzo behind the fountain you’ll note that it’s beautiful and clean and in perfect shape. That’s thanks to the €2 million in funding from the fashion designer Fendi in 2015, in a program they call Fendi for Fountains.
Surprising Trevi Fountain Fact #3
In addition to the Trevi Fountain restoration Fendi also paid for restoration of the nearby four fountains: the Fontana dell’Acqua Paola (Fontanone on the Janiculum hill), the Acquedotto Felice (Fontana del Mosè in Piazza di S. Bernado), the Acquedotto del Peschiera (Piazzale degli Eroi) and the Acquedotto dell’Acqua Vergine (Fontana del Ninfeo al Pincio).
Trevi Fountain design and sculptures
Many people are convinced that Bernini sculpted one or more of the sculptures in the Trevi Fountain but actually his contribution was simply the design of the double basin of the fountain. This is the largest Baroque fountain in Rome.
The overriding theme of the fountain and its sculptures is a dedication to nature and water, not surprisingly. The main central figure is Oceanus, protector of all earth’s waters.
The sculptures on either side of Oceanus are hippocamps, an animal with an upper body of a horse and a lower body of a fish, that looks like a seahorse. Still on either side of Oceanus but slightly higher you find cornucopia on one side, symbolic of abundance, and on the other side a staff and snake, symbolic of health. The bas reliefs above Oceanus portray the myth of the origin of the fountain.
The Trevi Fountain: functional and beautiful
Surprising Trevi Fountain Fact #4
Water within the Trevi Fountain is fed by the Virgo (Virgin) aqueduct, the only ancient aqueduct which has been functioning continuously since ancient times. It’s an amazing 22 km long. Not only does it feed the Trevi Fountain but it also feeds the exquisite Barcaccia Fountain at the base of the Spanish steps, and the gorgeous Italian Renaissance Turtle Fountain in Piazza Mattei.
If you're interested in a Rome Fountain Tour I've got you covered!
An underground view of the Trevi Fountain and the workings of the Virgo aqueduct
Surprising Trevi Fountain Fact #5
There are indeed two great options for an underground viewing and one is to visit the basement of the Rinascente Department store. During the department store’s restoration workers came upon the Virgo Aqueduct and it was decided to keep the view visible to visitors. If you visit the Rinascente you can experience this fabulous view and have a coffee. That’s not all the Rinascente has to offer in terms of views. If you head up to the rooftop you can enjoy a magnificent panoramic view of many Rome monuments and enjoy a cocktail or a great lunch at the same time.
Right behind the Trevi fountain, on Vicolo Puttarello 25, for €4 you can visit the fascinating underground archaeological area Vicus Caprarius, below the Trevi fountain. You can also book a guided tour here.
Where can I find a rooftop view of the Trevi Fountain?
Unfortunately there really isn’t a rooftop or high up window view of the Trevi Fountain unless you have the good fortune to visit one of the private terraces or palazzi in the piazza.
The Hotel Fontana has a direct view over the fountain but unless you’re a guest of the hotel you won’t be able to take advantage of this fabulous view. Only if you’re a guest of someone in one of the local apartments, or are staying at a rental apartment right there will you be able to take advantage of a view like this one:
Last year there was some discussion about the Palazzo Poli opening up its rooftop to allow visitors to have an aerial view of the Trevi fountain, but thus far it hasn’t happened. Of course this wouldn’t give you a view facing the fountain but you would still have a magnificent view looking directly down onto the basin of the Trevi Fountain.
There is a Benetton shop right nearby the fountain and if you head up to the second floor you can look down on the Trevi Fountain. You can also stand on the stairs of the nearby Saint Vincent & Anastasia Church for a slightly elevated view of the Trevi Fountain.
Has the Trevi Fountain ever been turned off?
Surprising Trevi Fountain Fact #6
When beloved Italian actor Marcello Mastroianni passed away in 1996 the Trevi Fountain was turned off and draped in black.
The Trevi Fountain neighborhood
When you visit the fountain don’t dash away from the neighborhood because there’s much to see in the local neighborhood, known as a rione in Italian.
Here you’ll find Rome’s smallest church, Madonna dell'Archetto, and an abundance of other wonderful churches like the Oratory of the Most Holy Crucifix, Piazza dell’Oratorio 68. Head a bit further afield to the Minor Basilica San Lorenzo in Lucina where you can visit the underground area within the church.
Great spots to eat near the Trevi Fountain
This is a classic Roman neighborhood and as such there are many wonderful and homestyle restaurants. You might want to try the Trattoria Romano, Piccolo Arancio or Colline Emiliane, a multi generational family owned restaurant that makes incredible food from the Emilia-Romagna region.
Maybe you feel like a gelato? There are a number of choices but a great one is San Crispino.
And if you’re interested in purchasing some wonderful charcuterie and cheese products then head to nearby Fratelli Ciavatta, Via del Lavatore 31, founded in 1956.
You might enjoy a Culinary Walking Tour of Rome.
Elyssa and Romewise
Elyssa formed her wonderful company Romewise so she could share her amazing knowledge and insight into the Eternal City. It can be anything from a deep dive into the Trevi Fountain which we discussed in today's podcast episode, or simple and useful facts like where you can find a Citibank in Rome. Elyssa shares everything about Rome in a few different formats. First, her website. She has also created a number of e-books you can take advantage of: monthly e-books that cover every detail about Rome by month, and then deep dive e-books, like her recent Trevi Fountain e-book. Elyssa also takes you to Rome virtually through her YouTube videos. And then of course you’ll find Elyssa, and Romewise, on social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
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