Fontana di Trevi ( The Trevi Fountain)
Fontana di Trevi ( The Trevi Fountain) is the largest and one of the most famous fountains in Rome and among the most famous fountains in the world.
The fountain, designed by Nicola Salvi, is leaning against one side of Palazzo Poli, it was begun by Nicola Salvi (the competition held by Pope Clement XII in 1731 was won by the French sculptor Lambert-Sigisbert Adam), but due to two versions: a copy that the pope did not want to entrust the work to a foreigner, the other that Adam would return to France (see the article “Adam” in the Treccani encyclopedia or Caroline Brooks in Rome-Paris, Accademia di San Luca, 2016 , p 40) in 1732 and completed in 1762 by Giuseppe Pannini and stylistically belongs to the late Baroque. The fountain was built with travertine, marble, plaster, stucco and metals.
From a restorative point of view, the fountain was subjected to an important conservative intervention in 1998, when the fountain was cleaned and the hydraulic system modernized. The most recent restoration began on June 4, 2014, consistently sponsored by Fendi. In a first phase, the cleaning and consolidation works involved the two side facades of the fountain front, then concentrating on statues, the cliff of the fountain and the new waterproofing of the tank, starting a long work of cleaning the limestone, micro-sandblasting, grouting, pictorial reintegration, consolidation of winged horses, rearrangement of cobblestones in the square and of the brick curtain wall, modernization of historic lampposts, cleaning of the golden letters that make up the dedication of the monument. The restorations continued for seventeen months, during which the fountain was partly visited thanks to the presence of a panoramic walkway that allowed it to be crossed. The ritual of throwing the coin was instead maintained with the positioning of a small tank, in which tourists and citizens could continue to pull coins and express desires. The Trevi fountain redelivery ceremony took place on 3 November 2015, in the presence of hundreds of people, with a reopening of the pipelines of the Vergine aqueduct that filled the tank.
The theme of the entire composition is the sea. It is inserted into a large rectangular pool with rounded corners, surrounded by a walkway that runs from side to side, enclosed in turn by a short staircase just below the street level of the square. The Salvi resorted to the staircase system to compensate for the difference in height between the two sides of the square: the left side (the one towards the Quirinale hill) is in fact much higher than the other, so much so that it was also necessary to resort to a short parapet to delimit the road, partially covered by rocks, on one of which is carved a Cardinal’s coat of arms depicting a rampant lion.
The scenography of Fontana di Trevi ( The Trevi Fountain) is dominated by a rocky cliff that occupies the entire lower part of the building, in whose center we find a large niche delimited by columns that makes it stand out as if it were under a triumphal arch. Here stands a large statue of Oceano by Pietro Bracci (1759-1762, based on a project begun by Giovanni Battista Maini), with muscular and opulent forms and a proud and haughty gaze: the god, cloaked in a cloth that just covers his pelvis and the pubis, is caught while incede on a shell-shaped chariot pulled by two winged horses, nicknamed respectively “agitated horse” (the one on the left) and “placid horse”, referring to similar moments of the sometimes calm and sometimes sea stormy. On the sides of the large central niche there are two other niches, smaller, occupied by the statues of Health (to the left of Oceano) and of Abundance (to the right of Oceano), the latter depicted holding up the symbolic horn full of fruits and coins. Both of these statues are by Filippo Della Valle. The three niches are bordered by four large columns.
Still on the sides of the main arch, above the two niches, there are two bas-relief panels, depicting Agrippa in the act of approving the construction of the Aqua Virgo aqueduct by Giovan Battista Grossi (above the statue of Abundance). And the “virgin” which shows the soldiers the place where the water springs are located, by Andrea Bergondi (above the statue of Health). The fountain is also adorned with numerous decorations in marble depicting vegetables: in fact, there is a caper plant on the facade of Palazzo Poli, a wild fig rooted on top of the balustrade, a bush of mullein, a prickly pear, four branches of ivy, calla lilies and lake reeds, an oak trunk under the statue of health, an artichoke, a vine with four bunches of grapes, a colocasia floating on the water, a fig tree, a small stone and a group of plants evergreens where the travertine cliff ends. The entire composition was completed by a snail in a small cavity open on the facade.
The four large Corinthian columns support the upper façade, in correspondence of each column, with four smaller allegorical statues: from left to right, the Abundance of fruit by Agostino Corsini, the Fertility of the fields by Bernardino Ludovisi, the Wealth of Autumn by Francesco Queirolo and the Amenity of the gardens by Bartolomeo Pincellotti (1735). In the middle, between the two central statues, surmounted by an imposing heraldic coat of arms of Pope Clement XII supported by the due representations of the Fame of Paolo Benaglia, is the great commemorative-inauguration inscription that the pontiff wanted to put a little hastily:
Traditions and mass culture
The symbol of the city it represents and probably also the very grandeur of the fountain is at the origin of legends and anecdotes that thicken around it and that have become part of Roman popular culture: the
The most well-known and persistent tradition is linked to the tossing of the coin inside the fountain: completing this act with eyes closed, turning one’s back on Palazzo Poli, a future return to the city would be propitiated. The origins of the tradition could derive from the ancient custom of throwing oboli or small gifts into sacred sources to propitiate the local divinity, as for the wells of desires. The introduction of the coin toss in the Trevi fountain is attributed to the German archaeologist Wolfgang Helbig who stayed in Rome between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries for a long time. Helbig, who was a point of reference for German social life in Rome, was inspired precisely by these ancient rites to lighten the farewell of his guests from the eternal city.
The Municipality of Rome decided in 2006 that all the coins recovered (a sum equal to about three thousand and eight hundred euros per day) were to be allocated to the Caritas of the capital; this, however, does not prevent some “amateur” from attempting to make unauthorized and sanctioned personal recoveries.
According to another tradition, when drinking water was still drawn from the fountain (and the Trevi water, which today is used only for irrigation and to feed the fountains, was considered among the best in Rome, not to be calcareous) the girls made a boyfriend drink it, a glass that they shattered as a sign of good wishes and loyalty.