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.
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!
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).
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.
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 ;)
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.
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.
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