In Rione XI - Sant'Angelo, a few steps from the Old Jewish Quarter, surrounded by the palaces that once belonged to the noble Mattei family who gave the square its name, stands one of the most beautiful fountains in Rome. The Fountain of the Turtles was built between 1581 and 1588 on a project by Giacomo della Porta (1533-1602).
The history of the fountain comes from a romantic fable. According to legend, Duke Mattei, a gambler, lost his entire family fortune in one fell swoop. The future father-in-law, therefore, refused to give him his daughter in marriage. In response, the duke had this magnificent artwork built in a single night. The following day he invited his betrothed and her father to the palace to show them the fountain. He exclaimed: "This is what a penniless Mattei can accomplish in a few hours!". In memory of the episode, he had the window from which they looked out to admire the fountain walled up.
Among rich decorations in polychrome marble, four bronze children ride dolphins on shell-shaped tanks sculpted by Florentine Taddeo Landini (1550-1596). From 1658, they "play" with the turtles, added to the fountain by Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
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