The Trevi Fountain, known as “Fontana di Trevi” in Italian, is one of Rome’s most iconic landmarks, a symbol of the city’s rich history and architectural prowess. This magnificent baroque masterpiece, with its intricate designs and grand scale, has a fascinating history that spans centuries.
The story of the Trevi Fountain begins in 19 BC with the construction of the Aqua Virgo, one of ancient Rome’s eleven aqueducts. Commissioned by Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, a close friend of Emperor Augustus, the aqueduct stretched over 20 kilometers, carrying fresh water from the Salone springs to Rome.
At the endpoint of the Aqua Virgo, a simple three-basin fountain was built, which remained for many centuries. This site is where the Trevi Fountain stands today. The name “Trevi” is believed to derive from the term “Tre Vie” (three roads), referring to the three ancient streets that converged at the fountain.
Plans for a New Fountain
The decision to replace the old fountain with a more impressive structure was made in the 17th century. In 1629, Pope Urban VIII commissioned Gian Lorenzo Bernini, a renowned Italian sculptor and architect, to design a new fountain. However, the project was abandoned when the Pope died.
The idea of creating a grand fountain wasn’t revisited until more than a century later. In 1730, Pope Clement XII organized a competition inviting designs for the new fountain. The winning design was submitted by Nicola Salvi, an architect relatively unknown at the time.
The Construction of the Trevi Fountain
Construction began in 1732 but was not completed until 1762, long after Salvi’s death in 1751. The project was finished by Giuseppe Pannini, who made some modifications to Salvi’s original design, including the addition of statues.
The central figure of the fountain is Oceanus, the Greek Titan god of freshwater and the sea, who is seen riding a shell-shaped chariot led by two sea horses. Each sea horse is guided by a Triton. One horse is calm, and the other is restless, symbolizing the varying moods of the sea.
On the left side of Oceanus is a statue representing Abundance, and on the right is Salubrity, both contributing to the fountain’s theme of water in all its manifestations.
The Trevi Fountain Today
Over the years, the Trevi Fountain has undergone several restorations. The most recent major restoration was in 2015, funded by the fashion company Fendi as part of a larger project called “Fendi for Fountains.”
Today, the fountain is not just an architectural masterpiece, but also a cultural icon, thanks in part to its depiction in films, most notably Federico Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita.” A popular tradition involves visitors throwing a coin over their shoulder into the fountain, a gesture believed to ensure their return to Rome.
In conclusion, the Trevi Fountain, with its majestic beauty and compelling history, continues to captivate visitors from around the world, symbolizing the grandeur of Rome’s past and its enduring allure as the “Eternal City.”