Design Election: Italian Water Fountains

European water fountains.

They are painfully charming and essential to making any established city seem more accessible, more friendly. Whenever I see a water fountain in the centre of a piazza, I immediately think “AAAahhhh, THIS is Italy!” (which is also the thought that pops into my mind when I eat a bowl of pasta or order a pizza margherita…). Today’s design election is all about fountains! Scroll down and leave your vote in the comments to participate.

Water fountains make big cities I would usually shy away from feel so quaint…so “small-town”. The cobblestone, the plaster and stone statues, the trickling sound of the water and the remnants of algae – gosh, I love algae-covered fountains – that make me giddy.

These fountains have so much character and history – I love considering what each fountain’s “story” might be, you know? Each person’s experiences contribute to his character and makes him more intriguing. Just like the fountain, the deeper you look in to something or someone, the more interesting they become.

Here are a few gorgeous fountains I passed on my last trip to Italy (I’m sure there are at least 500 more fountains to be seen, but these were the ones that made the cut).


Fontana del Pantheon (Pantheon Fountain)
(located in front of the famous Pantheon in Piazza della Rotonda)

Commissioned by Pope Gregory XIII in 1575; designed by Giacomo Della Porta; built by Leonardo Sormani.
The original statues were sculpted out of marble, but now plaster figures stand in their place (the marble statues can be found in one of Rome’s museums). The obelisk is in honour of Ramses II and stands in the centre of the fountain on a platform. There is one dolphin sliding down each sides of the obelisk, but I have no idea what the unusual characters symbolize.

A view of Fontana del Pantheon in front of the glorious Pantheon. (Image courtesy of

A view of a portion of the Fontana del Pantheon in Piazza della Rotonda, outside of the Pantheon in Rome.

Detail of the fountain in Piazza della Rotonda. Swans, a seashell and a concerned-looking dude..what does it all mean?!


Fontana del Moro (Moor Fountain)

This gem is located in the south end of Piazza Navona.  It was designed in 1574 by Giacomo Della Porta (he also designed the Neptune fountain on the other side of the piazza, as well as the previously mentioned Pantheon fountain) with a rose-coloured marble basin. Originally, the fountain featured a dolphin and four Tritons, but in 1653, the central figure (supposedly a Moor character …or an African… or perhaps it represents Neptune…) was added by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and is shown standing on a conch shell wrestling the dolphin.

Originally, fountains functioned from the city’s aqueducts and were used for drinking water – there was no need for decorative statues. Thank goodness Rome developed a stronger plumbing system and the fountains became decorative – they are one of my favourite aspects of Rome!

Sidenote: There are a total of THREE fountains in Piazza Navona, but Neptune Fountain did not have any statues for the first 300 years!

Moor Fountain in Piazza Navona.

Close up of a cluster of statues. The kneeling figure is a type of octupus or mermaid, behind him is the African/Moorish/Neptune mystery figure.

Another angle of Moor fountain.


Fontana di Trevi (Trevi Fountain)

This fountain is easily recognized by most tourists not only because of it is the largest Baroque fountain in Rome, but also because of it’s famous “throw a penny into the Trevi and you’ll return to Rome” tradition. Needless to say, I tossed an entire handful of pennies into the clear pool … hey, it worked the last time! This fountain was designed by Nicola Salvi in 1732 but was not completed until 1762.

The figures in this fountain are attempting to “Tame the Waters“. Trevi fountain runs some of the ancient aqueducts that serve Rome. The main character located in the centre of this sculptural marvel is Oceanus. Below him are several “Tritons” (yes, like the name of the father character in Disney’s The Little Mermaid) who are trying to tame the glorious hippo-camps (those winged horse-like creatures).

Wide shot of Trevi Fountain in Rome.

A view of a Triton and a hippocamp, along with one of the female characters above (there are two female statues in total, they represent Abundance and Salubrity)


Not-so-Important Fountain in the Villa Borghese Gardens

This fountain was not written about in any guide book, nor is it usually the source of conversation when one is walking through the opulent gardens of Villa Borghese. There are many other fountains that are not over-grown with vines, algae and grass, but they obviously lack the character that this fountain has. I like this fountain – I like that it was once important but is slowly being overcome by nature. I still love it, even if the tourists don’t care anymore.

I couldn’t help but strike a pose next to my new favourite fountain in the gardens at Villa Borghese in Rome.


The Nasone Fountains Throughout Rome

During your visit to Rome, you’re sure to find at least one (if not many!) Nasone fountains. The name “Nasone” loosely translates to “Nose”, and you’ll notice that the large cylindrical fountains each have a hook-shaped pipe that sticks out…that’s the fountain’s “nose”! The water from these fountains is drinkable – in fact, I’ve seen many locals and tourists refilling water bottles during my visit.

My dad was kind enough to demonstrate how the Nasone functions as a drinking fountain. Pretty clever, huh? You plug up the bottom of the pipe, and the water is forced through a smaller opening closer to your mouth – like a modern-day drinking fountain. I love them just as much as the previous fountain… but they don’t get my vote just yet ;)

A Nasone fountain in the streets of Rome.

Another Nasone on the street. Locals use this particular Nasone to wash fruit and vegetables from a nearby street side market.

How cute does dad look here? He really enjoyed a refreshing drink from this Nasone – the water was a nice cool temperature.


Fountain Trough Near Mercato Centrale In Florence

This fountain is another one of my favourites (in case you’re not picking up on the trend here, I tend to like the smaller fountains..they have so much more charm!). I stumbled upon this adorable 14th century trough-style fountain on my way to the Mercato Centrale in Florence. Again, this fountain is used by locals to fill up buckets, drinking bottles or in one lady’s case, to wash one’s hands.

I wish I knew the history behind this particular fountain…if you know something I don’t know, PLEASE SHARE :)

This one gets MY VOTE.

A bunch of cherub faces all in a row – how darling!

Okay, so a close-up view will reveal the wear-and-tear on this poor cherubs little face…looks like a lot of people have rubbed his little nose off. I still think he’s cute!


Fontana del Popolo (Fountain of the People)

This beauty is located in the town of Amalfi (on the Amalfi Coast) at the base of St. Andrew’s Cathedral. Locals and tourists alike get a kick out of drinking from a particular portion of this fountain (can you guess WHY?!). I love the detailwork in the statues – you can see the strands of hair on the female figure’s head.

A wide shot of the Fountain of the People – unfortunately, I had to borrow this photo since there were too many people around for me to get the entire fountain in a single frame. (Image courtesy of

Close up of the Fountain of the People’s base sculptures.

Geez, there are so many wonderful water fountains throughout all of Italy (and Europe, for that matter), this blog post could have gone on for 500 pages. I hope you enjoyed seeing a few of my favourites – big or small, these fountains really “make” Italy special for me. The delicate forms, the intricacy, the vivid expression in the figures’ faces…I am gaga for fountains.

Cast your vote for your favourite Italian fountain by leaving a comment. Are you a fan of large fountains? Small ones? Old ones? Tall ones? I want to know! :) Here’s the list again:

OPTION #1: Pantheon Fountain in Rome

OPTION #2: Moor Fountain in Rome

OPTION #3: Trevi Fountain in Rome

OPTION #4: Over-grown Fountain in Villa Borghese Gardens in Rome.

OPTION #5: The Nasone Drinking Fountains in Rome

OPTION #6: 14th century Cherubs in Florence

OPTION #7: Fountain of the People in Amalfi

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  1. How cute is your dad! Love this post…so pretty and soothing…

  2. Thank you, Jane! Dad DOES steal the show in this post ;) I am dreaming of Italian fountains today – the sound of the trickling water and the ornate sculptures. Just perfect.

  3. The Moor Fountain (thank you for identifying it!) in Piazza Navona gets my vote. One of the most romantic places on earth.

  4. Thanks for voting, Deborah! The Moor is indeed beautiful :)

  5. The trevi fountain will always hold a special place in my heart. I actually stood there and cried I was so overwhelmed by being where I was and seeing what I was seeing. LOVE.

  6. You’re such a softie, Sharon (and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible). Seeing such magnificent art and architecture moves me too. Glad I’m not the only sap who weeps over Baroque detailing. :)

  7. Alright, I couldn’t choose just one, so I’m going to go with the Trevi – such a classic! And your new found one in the Villa Borghese Gardens – so charming!

  8. Love the Nasone fountain, cause your male model is a true babe! But the fountain in Amalfi; Fountain of the People…makes me wonder if that is where the saying “she’s like a cool drink of water” comes from!!!

  9. Thanks for voting, mom. Dad will be happy to hear you approve of his Nasone modeling skills ;)

  10. Have a fantastic day!. Do you mind if I quote you on my blog if I link back to your website? play mario games

  11. Wow! This blog looks exactly like my old one!

    It’s on a completely different subject but it has pretty much the same layout and design. Outstanding choice of colors!

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