Water and fountains are part of Rome's artistic and cultural heritage. From the ancient Romans onward, several powerful men have chosen this element of street furniture to hand down their names in eternal memory.
Rome is also the world's only city with more than two thousand drinking fountains, made exclusively for public "thirst-quenching," particularly famous with Romans and tourists. Famously called "nasoni" because of their shape, they are simple cast-iron fountains where you can find free fresh water at any time of the day.
Our itinerary will make you discover the must-see fountains, the ones that, as the English Romantic poet P.B. Shelley wrote, "suffice [...] to justify a trip to Rome." Monumental, bizarre, Baroque, they shine in the most famous squares or reveal themselves in hidden corners, small and large masterpieces signed by the most celebrated masters of the art.
Our walk starts from the Fountain of the Naiads in Piazza della Repubblica. It is a fountain with a history full of curiosities and an extraordinary example of Art Nouveau Style in Rome. Designed by Alessandro Guerrieri, it was built in 1888 and inaugurated in 1901. Bronze groups depicting joyful nymphs, with Glaucus clinging to the dolphin in the middle, decorated it and are the work of sculptor Mario Rutelli.
You can take advantage of the nearby Baths of Diocletian, one of the sites of the National Roman Museum, to admire a valuable collection of Roman antiquities, or the elegant Via Nazionale to do some shopping.
A short distance away is Piazza Barberini, at the center of which stands the Fountain of the Triton, a 17th-century masterpiece by Gian Lorenzo Bernini: four dolphins with intertwined tails, between which are placed the papal coats of arms with bees, the heraldic symbol of the Barberini family, support an enormous shell, from which the Triton imposingly rises.
Walking down Via Sistina, you arrive to Trinità dei Monti, the small square overlooking the magnificent Piazza di Spagna. Down the steps, you can admire the Barcaccia, the beautiful fountain created by Pietro Bernini and his son Gian Lorenzo. Here, you are in the Capitoline heart of shopping: Via Condotti, Via Frattina, Via Borgognona, and many other small streets are the realm of the most famous fashion brands. Impossible not to carve out some time to shop or just browse in front of the splendid shop windows.
In the nearby Via del Babuino, you can discover the curious Fontana del Babuino. Built around 1576, it consists of a Roman-era basin in gray granite, surmounted by a Silenus' life-size tuff statue. Romans renamed it Babuino (baboon) for its ugly appearance and because it reminded a monkey figure. It is one of the city's famous talking statues. On it, Romans routinely posted anonymous satirical signs.
Returning towards Via del Tritone, a stop at the world's most famous fountain is a must do. Fellini's film "La dolce vita" consigned the Trevi Fountain to an eternal collective imagination. It was Nicola Salvi's work: a triumphant jewel with a vast cliff, at the center of which dominates the statue of Ocean driving the shell-shaped chariot, with the sculptural representation of plants, the flow of water, and the evocative lighting. Before you leave, don't forget to toss a coin into the fountain, you will surely return to Rome.
We resume our itinerary at Piazza Navona, a superb Baroque square where you can admire Bernini's Fountain of the Four Rivers, a masterful fusion of architecture and sculpture. A large travertine cliff supports the Agonal Obelisk, which came from Aswan. At the corners stand the monumental marble statues of the four rivers - Danube, Ganges, Nile, and Rio de la Plata - representing the then-known continents.
Keep in mind that you are in one of the city's liveliest rioni: behind the square, on Via della Pace, Piazza del Fico, and Via del Governo Vecchio, you are spoiled for choice for a mouth-watering break, savoring a supplì or a crispy slice of pizza, or have a coffee.
A fifteen minutes walk in the direction of the Old Jewish Ghetto to unearth the Fountain of Turtles, a delightful Florentine-style fountain in Mattei Square. The exquisite work suddenly offers itself to the eye as you access it from one of the charming narrow streets bordered by the beautiful 16th and 17th-century palaces that flow into the small square. Four well-molded ephebes push turtles toward the basin above. A real gem!
From Mattei Square, which in the past was often a natural film set, be sure to take a stroll around the area and sample traditional Jewish dishes at one of the many eateries. A few hundred meters away, you can reach the Fountain of the Tritons by Francesco Carlo Bizzaccheri, inspired in style by Bernini's work in Piazza Barberini. If you cross the street, you find yourself in front of the Mouth of Truth, the ancient mask that has entered the world's tourist imagination. Consecrated by the famous scene in the movie "Roman Holiday," its fame is linked to popular tradition for the belief that it could bite the hand of anyone who did not state the truth.
Our walk ends across the Tiber in the characteristic Rione Trastevere, a cheerful and colorful cross-section of the city where you can spend pleasant evenings in the many cafes, restaurants, and cocktail bars or get lost in the quaint alleyways, breathing in the essence of the Rome of yesteryear. From here, you can climb up to the monumental Fountain of Acqua Paola, also known as Fontanone del Gianicolo. Don't miss the view from the belvedere from which you can admire all of Rome.
If you feel like retracing an all-Roman tradition, climb the Janiculum Hill in Piazzale Garibaldi, where, every day at noon sharp, three soldiers fire a blank cannon shot. You can also walk along the pleasant Janiculum Walk to discover that there is a lighthouse in the center of Rome.