With its extravagant baroque architecture and monumental dimensions, the fountain ranks very high on the list of Rome’s most emblematic monuments!
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Want to know more about the history of Rome? Captain Ulysses highly recommends this free guided tour of the city (in English). It’s up to you to choose how much you want to tip the guide!
Brief history of the Trevi Fountain
The origins of the Trevi Fountain
Although the Trevi Fountain was built in the 18th century, its origins are much older. The fountain marks the end of the Aqua Virgo aqueduct, built in 19 BC at the request of the Roman general Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa.
The aqueduct was 20 kilometres /12.5 miles long and supplied water to the Campus Martius – a vast plain to the northwest of the present-day historic centre of Rome – as well as to the Baths of Agrippa.
Until the construction of the Trevi Fountain in the 18th century, a much smaller fountain marked the end of the aqueduct.
The construction of the Trevi Fountain
In 1730, Pope Clement XII decided to uphold the modernisation policy carried out by his predecessors and launched a major competition to select the architect who would have the difficult task of creating the Trevi Fountain. The pope wanted to replace the small fountain at the end of the Aqua Virgo aqueduct with a grand and imposing architectural work.
Nicola Salvi, a Roman sculptor and architect, won the competition: the story goes that the Pope was seduced by the project… as well as by its very low cost! One thing is certain: the pope was definitely down to earth!
The construction of the fountain began in 1732. Unfortunately, neither Pope Clement XII nor the architect Nicola Salvi saw the project through to completion. Salvi died in 1751 and the architect Giovanni Paolo Panini took over.
The Trevi Fountain was inaugurated in 1761. It took 29 years to build!
The Dolce Vita
Fun fact: the Trevi Fountain has appeared in quite a few emblematic film productions!
The most famous of these films is undoubtedly Federico Fellini’s Dolce Vita, with Anita Ekberg and Marcello Mastroianni’s mythical midnight bath in the Trevi Fountain!
But be warned: bathing in the Trevi Fountains is strictly forbidden and punishable by fine!
Where does the name of the Trevi Fountain come from?
The fountain’s name is directly derived from the square in which it is located, Piazza di Trevi, which was once the crossroads of three roads: tre vie in Italian.
⚓ Attention, sailors! ⚓
Want to find out more about Rome’s top landmarks, activities & museums? Why don’t you check out the Captain’s detailed article on the best things to do in Rome?
Short description of the Trevi Fountain
The Trevi Fountain is a monumental construction (20 metres wide and 26 metres high) in the form of a triumphal arch made of Carrara marble and Tivoli travestin, supported by 4 large Corinthian columns.
The fountain is an allegory of water: the architect Nicola Salvi is said to have been inspired by the Fountain of the Four Rivers, located in Piazza Navona and created in the 17th century by Bernini (also a must-see, by the way!)
In the centre of the fountain, Neptune, god of the sea, is represented on a shell-shaped chariot drawn by two horses guided by tritons (marine deities). One of the horses is restless while the other is peaceful, thus representing the two faces of the sea.
On either side of the statue of Neptune, two niches house each a statue: an allegory of Salubrity and an allegory of Prosperity, symbolising the virtues of pure water.
Higher up, two bas-reliefs represent General Agrippa and the young girl who, according to legend, discovered the source of the water supplying the aqueduct.
The upper part of the fountain is decorated with small allegorical statues and the coat of arms of Pope Clement XII.
Throwing coins into the Trevi Fountain
Legend has it that throwing a coin (or several coins) into the Trevi Fountain brings good luck. But you can’t do it just any way you want: you have to throw the coin over your left shoulder with your back to the fountain, and using your right hand.
The number of coins thrown into the fountain also matters:
- One coin: you will return to Rome in your lifetime
- Two coin: you will fall in love with an Italian
- Three coins: you will marry the person you’ve met
Since 2007, the money thrown into the fountain has been collected weekly by city employees and distributed to charities.
Here’s a little riddle: how much do you think the city of Rome collects each year?
1 million euros! Not bad, is it?
The Trevi Fountain is freely accessible 24/7. However, be warned: the fountain is one of the top attractions in Rome and it is pretty much constantly crowded. If you want to avoid the crowds of tourists, you should go early in the morning or late at night, after dinner.
The nearest transports are:
- Metro: Barberini station
- Bus: stop Tritone – Fontana di Trevi
- Hop-on hop-of tourist bus: more information here
💡 FYI 💡
Please note that unlimited access to public transport is included in the Omnia Card and Roma Pass. Find out more here.
👉 Looking for tips and recommendations? Here are all of Captain Ulysses’ suggestions!
🛏️ Accommodation: to book your accommodation in Rome, Captain Ulysses highly recommends Booking.com:
– the best youth hostels
– the best hotels for tight budgets
– the best hotels for midscale budgets
– the best high-end hotels
🎟️ Activities: As for booking visits and tourist activities, Captain Ulysses recommends three websites: GetYourGuide, Tiqets and Civitatis. Guided tours, cruises, skip-the-line tickets, tourist activities… there’s plenty to choose from!
🎫 Citypass: if you are staying in Rome for several days, it may be worth investing in the Roma Pass or the Omnia Card. As well as entries to some of the capital’s most iconic sites, these passes include access to public transport.
🚐 Transfers: if you want to arrive in Rome serenely, you can book your transfer from the airport to the city centre in advance. A car will be waiting to take you to your accommodation in the city. For more information: transfers in Rome.
🚌Local transport: Rome has a comprehensive public transport system: metro, bus and tram. Access to public transport is included in the Roma Pass and Omnia Card. If you wish, you can also opt for a hop-on hop-off bus tour which stops at all the top tourist attractions in Rome (audio guide included).
✈️ Flights and trains: to book your flights to Rome, Captain Ulysses warmly recommends Skyscanner. You’ll be able to compare countless offers to find the best deal. If your dates are flexible, you can also compare prices over several months to find the cheapest flights possible.
As for trains, the Captain highly recommends Trainline to book your tickets.