trevi fountain

The Trevi fountain is Rome’s largest and most famous baroque fountain. It is 85 feet tall and 65 feet wide and was designed by Nicola Salvi. Work started in 1732 and didn’t finish until 1762.


The name ‘trevi’ comes from the Italian for three roads or tre vie, and marks the spot where these intersected. This spot also marked a natural point on the route of the Acqua Vergine, or virginal waters, one of the ancient aqueducts that supplied water to Rome. Its end point was in the Baths of Agrippa near the Pantheon, less than a mile away.

roman fountain

In 19 BC Roman technicians found a water supply on the outskirts of Rome with the help of a Virgin or so the legend tells us. In the old days if you wanted to find a source of water, you apparently asked a virgin, if you wanted food, you asked the opposite perhaps. The aqueduct was built and the facility kept her name. This event is marked in the top left of the fountain; you can see a girl surrounded beside a Roman Soldier (Agrippa) pointing to the ground. This aqueduct broke down in the middle ages and one of the places the water came out was here. A fountain was built to control the water, this was the original trevi fountain, the fountain of the three roads.

rome fountain

This original fountain was updated by several people such as Giacomo della Porta, and it was later demolished by Gianlorenzo Bernini. Pope Urban VIII asked Bernini to build a new fountain, but the Pope died before the funds were released and the plans were then shelved.

trevi fountain facts

The theme of the fountain is the taming of the waters. Neptune, the Roman God of the sea, is in the middle of the fountain standing on a shell. The building behind is designed as a Roman triumphal arch with Neptune standing underneath. Tritons, Neptune’s servants, guide his shell chariot which is pulled by seahorses or hippocampi on either side. They blow on conch shells which they used to announce his arrival.

fountain in rome

While Salvi was working on this a barber who had a shop on the right hand side (where the gift shop is now) kept coming out complaining about all the noise Salvi was making and that he couldn’t give anyone a decent shave. Salvi got very annoyed with this daily disturbance and decided to sculpt a vase on the right hand side of the rock. This vase resembles the container barbers used to hold shaving foam. Salvi put it there to obstruct the barber’s sign so he would lose business. Salvi actually died before the fountain was completed and it was finished according to his designs by Giuseppe Pannini, another architect.

three coins in the fountain

Everyone is usually familiar with tossing a coin into the fountain. However it must be done properly, right hand over right shoulder. Throwing one coin into the fountain ensures you will return to Rome. Throwing two ensures you will fall in love here. Three and you’re getting married here.

fontana de trevi

Of course with the amount of tourists here in Rome every year all these coins add up to a pretty penny.
In 2002 the press discovered that a homeless man calling himself D’Artagnan had been taking money out of the fountain at 6 am every morning when the place was empty. He used magnets and a rake to take out almost 1000 Euro per day. He wasn’t keeping this for himself but was actually distributing the money to other homeless people around the city. The introduction of the Euro currency in 2002 put an end to his scheme as his magnets were useless on them.

The Trevi Fountain is one of the most iconic buildings in Rome. If you would like to see it on a walking or driving tour of the squares of Rome you can send me an email via the link in the menu.

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