Make a wish at the world’s most famous fountain
The Trevi Fountain needs no introduction. It is known worldwide as being one of the most beautiful fountains ever created. A visit to Rome would not be complete without seeing it.
- Toss a coin (or two) into the fountain’s crystal-clear waters.
- Learn about the symbolism behind the beautiful and intricate sculptures that populate the fountain.
- Discover the fountain’s humble beginnings with a peek at an ancient Roman aqueduct.
What to see and do
The Trevi Fountain may be ‘just a fountain’, but it’s one of the most interesting ones there is. You can spend hours admiring it and learning about the meanings behind this masterpiece. Get there early to beat the crowds, and return later at night to see it in a new light.
Here’s a list of what you can expect to see and do at the fountain, including a few things in the area surrounding it.
The Myth Behind the Trevi Fountain Coin Toss
If you look down into the waters of the fountain you’ll see the floor glittering with hundreds of coins. That’s because, according to legend, depending on how many coins you toss into the fountain you get different results.
Toss one in to return to Rome, two to return to Rome and meet your true love there, and three for both those things and then marriage! The tradition originated with the aptly named 1954 film, Three Coins in the Fountain, and has since become a myth.
Remember to always use your right hand and toss the coin over your left shoulder, or the magic won’t work!
The Symbolism of the Sculptures
The main figure in the center of the work is the Titan (the ancestors of the gods) Oceanus, and not Neptune as most people think. This god of the Sea rides a shell and is flanked by two mer-horses, or hippocampus, each held by a triton. One is docile while the other is wild, representing the different moods of the sea.
In the niches on either side of Oceanus are two female statues, personifications of Abundance (holding the basket of fruit) and Salubrity (with the laurel wreath). They signify the luxuries that clean water provides. There are four more goddesses at the top of the fountain, each representing earth’s bounty thanks to water (fruit, crops, harvest, and flowers).
There are also two reliefs that explain the history behind the water source. One depicts a virgin (hence the name Acqua Virgo) showing the Romans where to find pure water; the other shows Marcus Agrippa (who also built the Pantheon) ordering the construction of the aqueduct.
The Ancient Aqueduct
There are still a few places near the fountain where you can see parts of the old aqueduct. One way is to pay a small fee to visit Vicus Caprarius, an underground archeological dig. It shows the original site of the source of the water, as well as the remains of Roman houses.
You can also walk a short distance to Via del Nazareno, across the street from Via del Tritone, and peek through the gate to catch a glimpse of the tops of the aqueduct arches; the rest is buried below street level.
The most unique way to see it, however, is to go to the nearby Rinascente, a huge department store, and descend to the underground level. While restoring the building, they discovered a stretch of the aqueduct and made it available for everyone to see for free!
The Preserved Hearts of the Popes
Right across the street from the fountain is a church with a long name: Santi Vincenzo e Anastasio a Fontana di Trevi. It’s not only a cute church and a great place to seek refuge from the tourists and Roman heat, but it’s also the home to 22 preserved pope hearts.
In a practice that lasted from the 16th century up until 1903, after a pope’s death, he would have his heart removed and preserved here before his body was embalmed. The tradition ended when Pope Leo XIII refused to be subjected to it. Squeamish, maybe?
Did you know that: (4 Interesting Facts!)
- The fountain is located at the junction of three roads, which is where it gets its name: Trevi derives from Tre Vie, which literally means ‘three streets’!
- It’s estimated that around one million euros are collected from the fountain each year. The money is then sent to a local charity to help the poor.
- One of the most famous scenes in movie history took place here when Anita Ekberg wades into the fountain in La Dolce Vita. Don’t try it today, you’ll get fined!
- The fountain is the finishing line for a working aqueduct, named the Acqua Vergine, which provides clean drinking water to the city of Rome.
- The site where the fountain sits today was actually the terminal point for an important Roman aqueduct, the Acqua Virgo, built-in 19 BCE. It’s the predecessor to Acqua Vergine.
- The aqueduct served ancient Rome for over 400 years until it was damaged sometime during the 6th century during an invasion by the Ostrogoths.
- In 1453, Pope Nicholas V built the first fountain on this site, during his restoration of the aqueducts. It was the only source of clean water in Rome for nearly 100 years.
- Pope Urban VIII thought the fountain was too modest so, in 1629, he asked Gian Lorenzo Bernini to design a much more magnificent fountain to replace it.
- The project fell through after the pope’s death and Bernini’s vision was never created, though you can still see some of his influence on it today.
- The fountain was left alone again until 1730, when Pope Clement XII held a contest to select an architect to redesign it.
- The architect Nicola Salvi was awarded the commission (even after having lost the contest to a Florentine, to the dismay of the Romans) and started carving the intricate details out of travertine stone. Unfortunately, he would never live to see it finished.
- It was finally completed thirty years later, in 1762, by architect Giuseppe Pannini and a team of sculptors, and inaugurated by Pope Clement XIII later the same year.
- Today, the Trevi Fountain is considered one of the most beautiful and well-known fountains in the whole world and is visited by millions of people a year.
The Trevi Fountain is famous for its detailed artwork and intricate sculptures. It’s an unmissable sight, being the biggest fountain in Rome measuring 20 meters in width and 26 meters in height.
The main figure in the center of the Trevi Fountain is Oceanus, and not Neptune as many people think.
The coins thrown in the Trevi Fountain are collected, cleaned, and given to a Catholic charity, Caritas in Rome.
It’s estimated that around one million euros are collected from the fountain each year.
Map & Directions (Location)
The Trevi Fountain is located on Piazza di Trevi, in the heart of Rome, just a stone’s throw away from many other important sites. It’s easily accessible by metro or by foot.
Metro: The closest metro stations are either Barberini (7 min.) or Spagna (10 min.). Both are on Line A.
Walking: Piazza di Spagna (10 min.)
Pantheon (8 min.)
Piazza Venezia (9 min.)
Piazza Navona (12 min.)
Address: Trevi Fountain, Piazza di Trevi , 00187 Roma, Italy · view larger map