No trip to Rome would be complete without a visit to the most beautiful fountain in the world, the Fontana di Trevi. Both for its exquisite allegorical beauty and its historical importance, spending some time just admiring it is something to be done at least once in a lifetime.
As one of the most visited places in Rome and probably one of the attractions where it is easier to have a bad experience, I have written this guide with everything you should know before visiting the famous Trevi Fountain: its history, its artistic explanation and, most importantly, a series of traveler tips to enjoy it to the fullest.
1. When and how to visit the Trevi Fountain: useful tips
Twice as good as once
Visit it twice, once during the day and once at night. At dawn, there will not be many tourists and you can enjoy the fountain in all its splendor, and after midnight the place will have a special aura with the beautiful illumination of the Trevi Fountain.
How to avoid massive crowds
Whatever you do, don't visit the fountain at one o'clock in the afternoon or at the end of the day, you'll find yourself in a throng of tourists who will probably ruin your experience, and remember: you're only going to see the Trevi Fountain for the first time once.
Beware of pickpockets
Of all the places in Rome, in the Trevi Fountain, it is especially necessary to be careful with your purse, backpack, or wallet. Being such a small space and where many unsuspecting tourists gather, there will be pickpockets wandering around if there is a little crowding.
Don't fall into tourist traps
Beware also of people who offer to take a picture of you at the fountain, as they will want to charge you for giving it to you afterward and if you refuse they can get very annoying.
Here's a fair warning: don't take a bath in the fountain
It probably goes without saying, but you can't bathe in the water of the Trevi Fountain like in the iconic scene from 'La dolce vita'. Well, by all means, you can, and take a picture if you want to, but the "entrance" fee is a € 500 fine. In case you are thinking of taking the risk, make sure to do it right: it is best to do it at early dawn when the fountain will be more beautiful and there will be fewer tourists and police around.
2. Where it is and how to get to the Trevi Fountain
The Trevi Fountain is located in the square of the same name, which can be reached from several nearby streets: Via del Corso, Via del Tritone, and Via della Dataria.
The nearest metro station is at Piazza Barberini. From here, go west along Via del Tritone until you reach Via della Stamperia, and down the street, you will reach Piazza di Trevi.
3. All about the tradition of coin tossing
Traveling is one of the best ways to discover rituals and traditions of places around the world, and the tradition of dropping coins in the Trevi Fountain is one of my favorites of all the places I have visited. There will be no better occasion than to quote St. Augustine's proverb that derived into the famous saying 'When in Rome, do as the Romans do'.
How to do it
The tradition says that you have to stand with your back to the water of the fountain and, with your right hand, throw a coin over your left shoulder. This will ensure that you will return to Rome at some future point in your life. But if you toss a second coin, legend has it that you will find love (or fall in love with an Italian person, depending on the version), and with a third coin, you will secure marriage or divorce.
The origin of this tradition
But where does this tradition come from? I imagined that it would be an ancient legend, with origins in some pagan superstition, but no: coins began to be thrown after the premiere of the 1954 film 'Three Coins in the Fountain', in which the tradition was invented with all its peculiarities.
Where does all this money go?
Logically, as popular as the tradition of throwing coins into the Trevi Fountain is, a lot of money ends up at the bottom. Around 3,000 Euros are collected from the fountain every night, which are then donated to the Catholic charity Caritas to provide services to destitute families in Rome.
4. What to see near the Trevi Fountain
The Trevi Fountain is an ideal place to visit as part of a tour of Rome, as it is on the way to many of the main sights of the city center.
Here are some tourist attractions in Rome that you can see on the same day of your visit to the Trevi Fountain:
Piazza di Spagna
With its famous set of stairs and its beautiful Fontana della Barcaccia, it is a very pleasant place to visit especially in spring and summer when the stairs are full of floral decorations.
Here, you will find the Fontana del Tritone, one of the most beautiful fountains in Rome, and Palazzo Barberini, a palace of great historical importance that served as the residence of Pope Urban VIII. My recommendation is to visit this square and go for a stroll in the surrounding area.
This building is the best preserved of Ancient Rome and is a spectacle to behold both inside and out. It is completely free to enter and you just have to include it in your top things to do on your trip to Rome.
One of the most important squares in Rome, where you can see three beautiful fountains and visit the church of Sant'Agnese in Agone. There are plenty of restaurants and cafes in this lively area, packed with street artists and a constant coming and going of tourists and locals.
5. A little history about the Fontana
The main goal of the architecture of the Roman Empire was to be of use to its citizens. The fountains in the city of Rome had the function of indicating a place to obtain drinking water for drinking, cooking, and cleaning, but in the case of the Trevi Fountain, like other fountains built during the Baroque period in Rome, these monuments also acquired the function of worshipping water and establishing it as a symbol of purity and renewal.
And that is why the fountain that existed on the site of the Trevi Fountain was renovated at the request of Pope Urban VIII in 1629, to become the wonderful work of art that we can admire today.
The pope entrusted this commission to the artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini, who was under his patronage, and thus he began his original design; however, the project was abandoned upon the pope's death and it was not until 1730, a century later, when Pope Clement XII chose the architect Nicola Salvi to finish this world-known fountain. By the way, the name of the Trevi Fountain comes from the fact that it is located at a crossroads of "three roads", something you will see first hand when you visit it.
6. What do the sculptures of the Trevi Fountain depict?
The Trevi Fountain is a wonderful work of art that is not part of an exhibition in a museum, nor of the private collection of a monarch, nor is it kept in a church. What makes it so special is that it is in the middle of the city ready to be admired by anyone who passes in front of it, and if you visit it in the company of an expert on a guided tour of Rome you can discover all the secrets that its sculptures hold.
Begun by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, the great architect and sculptor to whom Rome owes much of its beauty, and completed by Nicola Salvi, the Trevi Fountain is an allegory of the taming of the sea, with a series of symbols and allegories hidden in its various sculptures.
In the center of the fountain, in the main niche, is the statue of Ocean, the god of the sea, on a chariot pulled by two sea horses, one agitated and the other calm, which represent the two states of the sea.
To the left of Oceanus, stands the statue of Abundance, holding a cornucopia, and above which there is a frieze illustrating General Agrippa ordering the construction of the Acqua Virgo aqueduct, which led the water to this fountain. The origin of the aqueduct's name, according to legend, comes from a maiden who indicated to Agrippa the location of the spring on which the Trevi Fountain stands today.
To the right of the fountain, the statue of Health (or well-being) holds a cup from which a snake is drinking, the Cup of Hygieia, a traditional symbol of pharmaceutics.
Crowning the Trevi Fountain, four statues represent the beneficial effects of water on the Earth, symbolizing abundance, fertility, grape harvest, and wine, and the beauty of Nature.
Something that many people do not realize is that the grandeur of the fountain is due to the façade of the Palazzo Poli, which gives that spectacular background to the elements that make up the fountain itself.