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Rome, Latium, Italy

Fabulous Fountains Tour

Stunningly beautiful marble masterpieces and historical squares

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Difficulty: Easy
Length: 2.1 miles / 3.4 km
Duration: Half day
Family Friendly • Dog Friendly
 
Overview: Visitors can count on finding a great number of fountains in Rome. They run the gamut from Renaissance masterpieces that gracefully decorate the city's central squares to the "nasone" or noses, smaller iron fountains that dot the city offering a fresh taste of drinkable water and the chance to freshen up in the blistering summer temperatures. This tour offers up the city's landmark fountains in the center, adding historical information and tips on the history--or the legends--behind them.

Tips: Popes gave Rome most of its fountains in the 16th and 17th centuries to provide people with water to drink and wash, while embellishing the city streets and piazzas. While some fountains still provide drinkable water today, it is wise to resist the temptation of dipping your feet in the water, as police officers may come to stop you. Sometimes it is easier to carry a plastic water bottle to refill rather than try to climb and drink directly at the fountain.

Points of Interest

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Fontana del Tritone

This tour starts at this often-overlooked fountain by Baroque sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini, right in the middle of the bustling Piazza Barberini. Take your time to observe the muscular Triton, a sea god, kneeling on a base of four dolphins. The fountain is the first free-standing urban fountain made by Bernini. From this square, head down to the Via del Tritone, a shopping strip, until you turn left on Via della Panetteria and right toward the next attraction: the world famous Trevi Fountain.
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Trevi Fountain (Fontana di Trevi)

This sumptuous masterpiece appears out of the blue in its cramped quarters, heavily decorated with marbled seahorses, shells and cherubs and constantly patrolled by a relentless ocean of tourists. Immortalized by Federico Fellini's movie "La Dolce Vita," in which actress Anita Ekberg frolicked sensually in the water, today this fountain is one of Rome's busiest stops.

Thousands of people snap pictures and throw coins in the water at all hours of the day. As legend has it, tossing a coin into the fountain as you turn away from it will ensure your return to Rome. From here, get back to the Via del Tritone, cross it and take the short Via Poli, turn left and follow directions to Piazza di Spagna and Trinità dei Monti.
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Barcaccia Fountain

Upon your arrival to the magnificent Piazza di Spagna, you'll see this fountain right below the Spanish Steps, shaped as a sinking ship with water overflowing its bows. Built by Bernini's father, with the collaboration of the talented young son in 1627 after a flooding brought a meter of water--and a boat--onto the square, Barcaccia stands for "Old Boat" but it is instead an original and beautiful fountain.

From here, a 20-minute walk through Rome's most elegant streets will take you to the Fountain of the Four Rivers, towering in the middle of Piazza Navona.
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Trinita dei Monti

Before you leave Piazza di Spagna, you may want to climb the world-famous Spanish Steps for a good view of the Barcaccia Fountain from above and the bustling square. If you can't climb, there's an elevator just outside the Piazza di Spagna subway station on the left. You can sit on the steps, but it's forbidden to eat or drink and the fines are hefty. If you happen to visit in May, you'll be rewarded with a magnificent view of long rows of pink azaleas decorating the steps.
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Fountain of the Four Rivers

This is Bernini's most famous fountain, built between 1648 and 1651, right in the center of Navona square, facing the church of Sant'Agnese in Agone, whose majestic façade was completed by rival architect Francesco Borromini. Four statues represent four rivers, symbols of four parts of the world: the Danube for Europe, the Nile for Africa, the Rio de la Plata for the Americas and the Ganges for Asia.

Check out the huge statue of the man representing the Rio de la Plata, with a hand raised above his face. As Roman locals often recount, Bernini made the statue appear as if it was protecting itself from the church's façade, so poorly built that it is likely to fall upon it as a mockery of his rival Borromini. The fountain was actually built before the church was completed.

From here a gentle stroll mainly along the Corso Vittorio Emanuele will take you into the heart of the Jewish Ghetto and Piazza Mattei, with its original Turtle Fountain.
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Largo di Torre Argentina

On your way to the Jewish Ghetto for the last two attractions, you will pass the Largo di Torre Argentina, a busy square hosting a complex of Roman ruins, including remains of a theater and temples, right in the middle. A no-kill shelter for homeless cats also resides here and many of its inhabitants can be spotted among the ruins.
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Fontana delle Tartarughe

The beauty of the Fontana delle Tartarughe is principally the fact that you can observe this beautiful late Renaissance masterpiece without wrestling with huge crowds of tourists as it is located in a relatively little-known, yet central neighborhood, the Jewish Ghetto. Around the edge of a circular vasque stand four bronze ephebes (young men), each with one foot on the head of a bronze dolphin. Bronze turtles are placed around the upper basin and were added at a later stage, during restoration.
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Via Portico d'Ottavia

The Fontana delle Tartarughe is only a few steps from the ruins of the Portico d'Ottavia, a romantic archaeological gem, perfect for a stroll at sunset in the heart of the atmospheric Jewish Ghetto. Make sure you stop at one of the pie shops for a sugar boost or plan to have dinner in one of the typical Roman-Jewish trattorie for a mouthwatering array of fried artichokes, cod and pasta dishes.
Pictures in this guide taken by: meironke, gastone, layonel, paolo_malisano, uspeerke, Matsivar, johnsue11, ymu

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martafalconi
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