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Trevi Fountain

Fontana di Trevi

The most spectacular of Rome’s fountains, immortalised by Anita Ekberg ‘s midnight dip in Fellini’s classic film “La dolce vita” (The Sweet Life). The fountain was designed to show off the acqueduct of the Acqua Vergine built by Marco Vipsiano Agrippa in 19 b.C. to supply water to the thermal baths which he built close to the Pantheon. The water was named Vergin after the legend telling of a young girl who showed the original spring to a group of thirsty Roman soldiers. The first fountain to take the waters of the Acqua Vergine was built in 1453 for pope Nicholas V, designed by Giovan Battista Alberti in the spot called “of the Trejo” and through the years it took the name of Trevi.

The fountain marked an important turn point for the town which for centuries had to use water taken from the Tiber river. Three centuries later pope Clement XII decided to substitute the old fountain and instigated a competition amongst the best sculptors of his time to come up with something better. His aim was that to supply Rome with as much drinking water as possible and at the same time to give to the city a grandiose work of art. Among the sketches was chosen that of the Roman Nicolò Salvi. The construction of the fountain lasted 23 years and it forms the east wing of the Poli Palace.

It was modelled on the ancient arch of triumph crowned by the coat of arms of Clement XII. The figure of Ocean (Neptune) dominates proceeding, supported by tritons to either side; the one on the left struggling to control his horse represents a stormy sea, his partner on the right, blowing into a counch shell, symbolises the ocean in repose. The statues in niches either side of Neptune are allegories of Health and Abundance, overseen by figures on the pediment who represent the four seasons.

The relief on the fountain to the right of Oceanus illustrates the story of the Vergin which shows the spring to the Roman soldiers. On the other side Agrippa shows his project to the emperor. Into the basin, which represents the sea, tourists throw a coin to ensure their return to Rome. Another romantic rite is linked to the small fountain to the left side, called “small fountain of the lovers”. According to the legend the couples who drink at its water will be faithful for ever.

La fontana era un momento importante per la città che tornava ad avere acqua di sorgente dopo aver utilizzato per secoli l’acqua del Tevere. Tre secoli dopo papa Clemente XII decise di sostituirla e indisse un concorso invitando i migliori artisti del suo tempo a partecipare. Lo scopo era quello di ornare Roma di un’opera grandiosa e di fornirla di maggiore quantità d’acqua potabile. Fra i bozzetti fu scelto quello del romano Nicolò Salvi. La costruzione della fontana durò 23 anni e coprì tutto il lato di Palazzo Poli.

Fontana di Trevi ha nel mezzo un arco trionfale sormontato da un attico sul quale sovrasta lo stemma di Clemente XII. Al centro di una base rocciosa si erge la statua di “Oceano” sopra un carro a conchiglia trainato da due cavalli marini guidati da tritoni. I cavalli rappresentano il mare agitato e calmo. Le due statue ai lati di Oceano rappresentano la Salubrità e la Prosperità chiara allusione agli effetti benefici di un’acqua pura.

I bassorilievi sovrastanti ricordano l’approvazione del progetto dell’acquedotto di Agrippa e la leggenda della vergine che indica la sorgente ai romani. Nella vasca che rappresenta il mare, i turisti gettano una moneta per assicurarsi il ritorno a Roma. Un altro rito romantico è legato alla fontanella sul lato sinistro chiamata “fontanina degli innamorati”. Secondo la leggenda le coppie che bevono a questa fontanella hanno il privilegio di restare sempre fedeli.