Trevi Fountain Facts & History

Standing 26 meters across (65 feet) and 49 meters high (85 feet), Fontana di Trevi is the largest fountain in Rome, located in the heart of Rome historic center. The fascinating, imposing structure of the Trevi Fountain, a Baroque masterpiece, completely fills the little Piazza di Trevi it stands in. Symbol of the Italian “Dolce Vita” and of Rome itself, the Trevi Fountain is certainly a “must see” destination of every trip to Rome and Italy, especially because the monument is linked to the popular local tradition of making wishes come true by tossing a coin in the water. No worries, we will give you precise directions at the end of this post. We don’t want you to waste your shot!
But let’s start with some facts and history first, so you will understand the meaning of this masterpiece during your trip to Rome!

Credits: image by @StockSnaps
Location: in Piazza di Trevi, in the Spanish Steps & Trevi Fountain Area
Tickets: Not Needed
Accessibility: Accessible
Kid-friendly Attraction

When and Why was the Trevi Fountain Built

One of the most interesting facts about the history of the Trevi Fountain is that the construction of the monument absorbed some of the best talents of the late 1600’s.
The monumental work was designed by architect Nicola Salvi in 1732 after winning a competition organized by Pope Clement XII. The fountain was intended to mark the ending destination of the ancient Aqua Virgo Aqueduct that runs about 14 miles outside of the city. Inaugurated in 19 BC by Agrippa, famous Roman general and son in law of Emperor Augustus, the aqueduct was built to bring water to Rome’s Public Baths.
Works of the Trevi Fountain carried on after Nicola Salvi’s death. The masterpiece was formally shown to public in 1744, but further works kept on until 1762 when the Trevi Fountain was officially completed.

Why some people think the Trevi Fountain is Bernini’s Project

Bernini’s was a genius who has given to the world countless, incredible masterpieces such as the Fountain of Four Rivers in Piazza Navona, the Elephant and Obelisk Statue nearby the Pantheon, the sculptures housed in the Borghese Gallery, not to mention the artwork in the Vatican Museum, which we are all thankful for. However, the Trevi Fountain cannot be attributed to Bernini.
It is true though that in 1629 Pope Urban VIII started considering restoration works of an earlier fountain, and asked Bernini to provide him with some sketches. The project however was never carried out, passing from one pope to the next until Clement XII. Even though there are some Bernini’s touches, it was Nicola Salvi in 1732 who gave a decisive impulse to developing the project of the Trevi Fountain.

Credits: image by @Timmz

Trevi Fountain: Peculiar Features

Clement XII decided to use a theatrical backdrop for the Trevi Fountain, the facade of the Duke of Poli’s brand new Palace! This explains why the Trevi Fountain is so impressively huge, extending for the entire long side of the small Piazza di Trevi.
As you can imagine, convincing the Duke was no peace of cake. The Duke protested against the Pope’s intentions, who eventually overrode his claims and did it anyway.

Trevi Fountain Meaning: “A Hymn to Life”

All the thoughts and decisions that led architect Nicola Salvi to conceive the project of the Trevi Fountain are collected in his book “Philosophical Reasons”, today kept in the Vatican Library. Thanks to this priceless evidence we know that the architecture and sculptures were complementary to each other in Salvi’s project, both means to symbolize the encounter between natural and human world.

The sculptures imitate nature with rocks and plants, horses and shells, and water of course, while the architecture of the fountain represents the human world.

The Trevi Fountain is a “Hymn to Life”, where God Neptune, standing enthroned in the middle of a niche, represents the water, the “perennial cause of nature maintanance”, “making vivid the nutritive parts necessary for the production of forms and, mitigating the excessive heat that destroys it”.

The Sculptures

In the middle of the Trevi Fountains there’s Neptune, the ancient god of water, standing on a sea-shell chariot led by two Tritons, work of the sculptor Pietro Bacci.
One horse is wild, while the other seems calm, symbolizing the dual nature of the sea and also a reference to Plato’s myth of the charioteer.

Credits: image by @efrye on Pixabay
Credits: image by @efrye on Pixabay

On Neptune’s left side there’s the Statue of Abundance, while on the right the Statue of Health.

Above the god there are two reliefs. The one on the left features Agrippa in the act of approving the construction of the Aqua Virgo. The right relief shows a virgin helping Roman technicians locating a source of pure water.

The coat of arms on top of the fountain celebrates the Corsini, the family of Pope Clement XII.

Trevi Fountain Coin Toss

The legend goes back to the XVII century when the number of people traveling to Rome started increasing. Tossing a coin into the Trevi Fountain became symbol of the nostalgia of those who were leaving and hoped to come back to the Eternal City again.

However, locals believe in a slightly different version of the legend, that has it that you can toss up to three coins in the Trevi Fountain and make three wishes (one for each coin).

No matter what version of the legend you believe in, the coin – or coins – must be tossed into the water over the shoulders, thus not facing the fountain but with your back at it. So, take your chance and toss a coin! Rome is a magical city and you never know…

But what about the money? Well, the fountain is swept daily and the money is donated to an Italian Charity named Caritas.