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All you need to know about Fontana di Trevi

Throwing a coin into the Trevi Fountain is just one of the legends of this architectural jewel.

Alex Grande

Alex Grande

7 min read

All you need to know about Fontana di Trevi

Trevi Fountain | ©Michele Bitetto

No trip to Rome would be complete without a visit to the most beautiful fountain in the world, the Trevi Fountain. Both for its allegorical beauty and its historical importance, it is worth spending some time contemplating it.

Because it is 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 tips to enjoy it to the fullest.

1. When and how to visit the Trevi Fountain: tips & tricks

The Trevi Fountain| ©Michele Bitetto
The Trevi Fountain| ©Michele Bitetto

Twice as good as one

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 mass tourism

Whatever you do, don't visit the fountain at one o'clock in the afternoon or at the end of the day, you will be met with a crowd of tourists who will probably ruin your experience.

Beware of pickpockets

Of all the places in Rome, here you especially need to be careful with your purse, backpack or wallet. Because it is such a small space and so many unwary tourists gather here, there will be pickpockets wandering around if there is a bit of crowding. Pay attention to your surroundings at all times and especially to your belongings so you don't get ripped off.

Don't fall into tourist traps

Beware also of people who offer to take a picture of you in the fountain, as they will want to charge you for taking it later and if you tell them not to, they can get very annoying.

Don't try to "enter" the water (and he who warns is not a traitor)

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, do it right: it is best to do it in the early morning, 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

Trevi Fountain| ©Christopher Czermark
Trevi Fountain| ©Christopher Czermark

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 in 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, one of the most beautiful squares in Rome.

3. All about the tradition of throwing coins

Trevi Fountain by night| ©Christian Rosi
Trevi Fountain by night| ©Christian Rosi

Traveling is one of the best ways to discover little customs and traditions of places around the world, and the tradition of throwing coins into 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 famous proverb that derived into the famous Anglo-Saxon saying When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

How to do it

The custom is to stand with your back to the water of the fountain and, with your right hand, toss a coin over your left shoulder. This will ensure your 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 a marriage or divorce.

The origin of this tradition

Butwhere does this tradition come from? I imagined that it was an ancient legend, with origins in some pagan superstition, but no: the coin tossing began after the release of the film Three Coins in the Fountain in 1954, which defined the tradition with all its peculiarities.

What they do with the money collected

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 donated to Caritas, a Catholic charity organization that provides services to needy families in Rome.

4. What to see near the Trevi Fountain

Piazza di Spagna| ©Jorgen Hendriksen
Piazza di Spagna| ©Jorgen Hendriksen

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 Rome tourist attractions that you can take advantage of seeing on the same day as a visit to the Trevi Fountain:

Piazza di Spagna

With its famous set of stairs and its beautiful Fontana della Barcaccia, Piazza di Spagna is a very pleasant place to visit especially in spring and summer when the stairs are full of floral decorations.

Piazza Barberini

Location of the Fontana del Tritone, one of the most beautiful fountains in Rome, and Palazzo Barberini, of great historical importance for having been the residence of Pope Urban VIII. It is worth a visit and a stroll around the area.

The Pantheon

This building is the best preserved of Ancient Rome, and is a spectacle to behold both inside and out. A free visit that you have to include in your top things to do on your trip to Rome.

Piazza Navona

Piazza Navona is 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 the area, always animated by street performers and a constant coming and going of tourists and locals.

5. A bit of history about the Fountain

The Fonatna di Trevi| ©Fabio Fistaro
The Fonatna di Trevi| ©Fabio Fistaro

The architecture of the Roman Empire always had the maxim of being of use to the 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 enhancing its symbolism 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 marvelous work of art that we can admire today.

The pope entrusted the commission to the artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini, under his patronage, and Bernini began his original design; however, the project was abandoned upon the pope's death and it was not until 1730, a century later, that Pope Clement XII chose the architect Nicola Salvi to finish the famous fountain. Incidentally, the name of the Trevi Fountain comes from the fact that it is located at a "three-way" crossroads, something you will see first-hand when you visit it.

6. What does the Trevi Fountain represent?

La Fonatna di Trevi| ©Sten-Ritterfeld
La Fonatna di Trevi| ©Sten-Ritterfeld

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 guarded 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.

The artists

Initiated by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, the great architect and sculptor to whom Rome owes much of its beauty, and finished 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.

Its symbols

At the center of the fountain, in the main niche, is the statue of Oceanus, the god of the sea, on a chariot pulled by two sea horses, one agitated and the other calm, representing the two states of the sea.

To the left of Oceanus, stands the statue of Abundance, holding a cornucopia and above which is a relief depicting General Agrippa ordering the construction of the Acqua Virgo aqueduct, which carried water to this source. 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 the pharmacist.

Crowning the Trevi Fountain are four statues representing 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 facade of Palazzo Poli, which gives that spectacular background to the elements that make up the fountain itself.