What you need to know about the Trevi Fountain

Two Red Dots
Two Red Dots /

Rome is a city that is packed tight with beautiful and historical sights, but few landmarks are as iconic and awe-inspiring as the Trevi Fountain. It’s a must-see destination in a must-see city.

Chances are you’ve already seen pictures of the fountain even if you don’t recognize the name. The fountain’s imagery is iconic, but many people don’t know the story behind the fountain.

The Fountain’s History

The Romans were famous for their aqueducts, which were some of the first structures to quickly and efficiently bring water from rivers to areas that were far inland. One of the first aqueducts built in Rome was the Aqua Virgo. This aqueduct leads into the heart of Rome, coming to a stop at the area that is now the Trevi Fountain.

The area was popular, and three roads ended up coming together near the fountain, which earned it the Latin nickname trivium, or “three roads.” Latin word would transform into the Italian name Trevi, so the “Trevi Fountain” literally means the “three roads fountain.”

A fountain existed in the area of the Trevi Fountain since the days of the Roman empire, but in those days it was more formal than functional. Eventually, Pope Urban VIII decided that the fountain needed an upgrade and hired famed Italian artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini to upgrade it. Unfortunately, the plan was cut short when Urban VIII died, but his decision laid the groundwork for future changes.

It was Pope Clement XIII who revived the renovations almost 100 years later. He held a contest find an artist to redesign the fountain, but when the winner was a man from Florence the results were thrown out and a local by the name of Nicola Salvi got the job. Salvi started building the new fountain in 1932 and would work on it until his death in 1751.

Even after 19 years of work the fountain still required 11 more years of work before it could be finished in 1762.

The Fountain Today

30 years might seem like too long to spend working on a single fountain, but it’s now over 260 years past the fountain’s completion date, and it still draws millions of visitors a year. The fountain was left alone for much of that time, but between 2013 and 2015 it was restored in a major project that cleaned all the original statues and installed new pumps and waterproofing to ensure that the fountain would continue flowing for centuries to come.

If you visit the fountain, you’ll probably want to throw a coin into it. This is a tradition that has persisted for centuries, with people coming from across Italy, Europe, and the wide world to toss coins over their left shoulder and into the fountain. Don’t worry about wasting your money; the coins are gathered up and donating to a charity that feeds the poor of the city.

If looking at all the water pouring down the fountain makes you thirsty don’t feel like you need to choose between drinking from the main fountain or going to one of the over-priced tourist traps nearby. The city of Rome is filled with drinking fountains that will supply visitors with some of the freshest and delicious drinking water available, and there is a special drinking fountain off in an enclave to the right of the main fountain.

All of these amazing facts pale in comparison to the wonder of the fountain itself. If you’re ever in Rome, you simply must see the Trevi Fountain for yourself.