The Trevi Fountain, designed by Nicola Salvi, is the largest Baroque fountain in Rome and one of the most famous fountains in the world. It recently underwent a major renovation funded by the fashion house, Fendi.The fountain, in some ways, dates back to Roman times. It marks the terminal point of an aqueduct that supplied water to the ancient Romans. Legend has it that in 19 B.C. thirsty Roman soldiers were guided by a young girl to a source of water about 8 miles from the city. This scene is depicted on the present fountain’s façade.
In 1629 Pope Urban VIII, finding the existing fountain insufficiently dramatic, asked Gian Lorenzo Bernini to sketch possible renovations, but the project was abandoned when the pope died. However, there are many Bernini touches in the fountain as it exists today.
Then, in 1730 Pope Clement XII organized a contest to redesign the fountain. Competitions had become all the rage during the baroque era to design buildings, fountains and even the Spanish Steps. Nicola Salvi initially lost the competition to Alessandro Galilei. But due to the outcry in Rome over the fact that a Florentine won, Salvi was awarded the commission anyway. Salvi died with his work half finished. The fountain was completed in 1762 when Pietro Bracci’s Oceanus (god of all water) was set in the central niche.
The theme of the whole composition is the sea. Overlooking a large rectangular pool is a scene dominated by rocky cliffs. In the center is the niche under a triumphal arch and bound by columns. Oceanus drives a chariot in the shape of a shell pulled by two winged horses, in turn driven by four Tritons. On the sides are two smaller niches occupied by statues of Salubrity and Abundance. The two horses traditionally known as “the restless horse,” which has a dynamic pose, and “the calm horse” represent the analogous moments of the sea.
In modern times the fountain is famous for its appearance in many films, including “Three Coins in a Fountain” (1954) and Federico Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita,” (1960) when Anita Ekberg dives into the pool and beckons Marcello Mastroianni to follow. The fountain is also famous for “the coin toss.” Tradition says that throwing a coin into the fountain over your shoulder ensures a return to the Eternal City. An estimated 3,000 euros are thrown into the fountain each day. The city designates the money to subsidize a supermarket for Rome’s needy citizens.
The restoration of the fountain financed by Fendi (2.2 million euro) began in July 2014 and was completed (ahead of schedule!) in October 2015. The work included cleaning the marble statues and the travertine, re-waterproofing the basin, and replacing the gilded Latin inscriptions. New and impressive LED lighting was installed. The restoration project was undertaken with careful consideration of the many tourists who flock to the site. The fence of the construction site was built with transparent panels so that people could view the work in progress. A suspension bridge was built over the basin so that visitors could observe the work more closely. .A small white tub was nearby for the traditional coin toss.
Other novelties were a dedicated website on the restoration and an App for smartphones that allowed visitors to take a selfie with the fountain in the background. The photos were collected on the website and each user who sent a photo received a poster of the fountain personalized with his or her picture.
It seems the Trevi Fountain will never lose its “touristy” quality, but at least the scaffolding is down now and the waters are flowing again at an iconic symbol of Rome.