10 Weird fountains in Rome: lesser known and very original fountains

Many people know that there's fontana di Trevi in Rome, a huge and wonderful fountain for sure, but there are many other smaller fountains in Rome, and some quite unusual and... weird! Here are my favorites:


Fontana del Facchino (fountain of the porter) in via Lata. This weird fountain depicts an acquarolo, a man who would take water from the public fountains of Rome to sell door to door. Acquaroli worked at the end of '500, after the public acqueducts were repaired at the order of the popes. Today the facchino, with his face severely damaged, is located under the window of a palace, few meters from the main touristic track. A lot of people just barely miss it, but it's super easy to find and also quite close to the Trevi fountain.


Fontana della Pigna (fountain of the pine cone) in piazza San Marco. This fountain, very close to the Altare della Patria, celebrates the huge bronze sculpture called Pignone (kept in the Vatican museums today).

The original statue, almost 4 meters tall, was found in middle ages in this area and gave the name to this neighborhood (rione della pigna). The Pignone was probably a decoration of the ancient roman temple of Isis and Serapis at campo Marzio.


Fontana della Terrina (fountain of the pie dish) in piazza Della Chiesa Nuova. Under the level of the street (approx 1 mt) is this gigantic bulbous stony mass, which generates four scarce trickles of water. The disproportion between the structure and the tiny flows it produces is very weird! This fountain originally had a different shape and location: it had no lid, and was placed in campo de Fiori, where a traditional street market takes place since ancient times. But as the fountain ended up constantly filled by people with garbage from the market, it was eventually "covered" with the stony lid and moved here.


Fontana dei Libri (fountain of the books) in via degli Staderari. The name of this street remembers the ancient manufacturers of steelyards ("stadere") who populated this area of Rome in the past. But the name of the street was changed, previously it was via dell'Università, because the Sapienza university was originally located here. So the four books in the fountain honor the university, and the water comes out of their bookmarks. in the middle, the deer head is a symbol of this neighborhood sant' Eustachio.


Fontana delle Arti (fountain of the arts) in via Margutta. This original fountain, with a triangular base and smooth edges, has clear references to the artistic character of this street that continues since the XVII century.

On top of the sculpture is a bucket of brushes, in the center a math compass (with water coming out of his edge), surrounded by two very expressive masks, one happy and one sad, to express the alternating mood of the artists. Both masks lie on artist's palettes.


Fontana del Babuino (fountain of the baboon) in via del Babuino. The statue depicts a Silenus (in Greek mythology Sileni were companions/tutors of the wine god Dyonisus) lying on a rock, over a rectangular pool. Since its construction, terminated around 1576, the poor Silenus was generally considered so ugly and deformed that Romans started to call him humorously "the baboon". For his unusual appearance he immediately became very popular in the city, and since then the babuino has inspired many traditional jokes, satire, and he even gave the name to the street it is placed in.


Fontana delle Api (fountain of the bees) in via Veneto. What unusual composition this is! Realized in 1644 by Bernini, the fountain of the bees was originally intended as watering place for horses. The main body is a giant bivalve shell, the lower one collecting the water, the upper one modeled to adhere to the corner of the building behind (the fountain was originally placed against a building in via Sistina). In the middle a big bow with three bees.


Fontana delle Palle Di Cannone (fountain of the cannonballs) in via di Porta Castello. In proximity of the Passetto, under a travertine arch, this fountain is made of a pyramid of stony cannonballs, the central one equipped with a face and a mouth that spits water in the pool below, while two side pools receive water from two additional cannonballs. This composition is a clear reference to the fortress of Castel Sant' Angelo nearby.


Fontana delle Tiare (fountain of the tiaras) in largo Del Colonnato Vaticano. Many distracted tourists who go to visit the Vatican don't take a glance at their left when they pass Porta Angelica, before entering piazza San Pietro.

There is the beautiful fountain of the tiaras, which combines the two elements of the Vatican emblem (the papal hat "tiara" and the keys) in an uncharacteristic setting.


Fontana delle Anfore (fountain of the amphorae) in piazza Testaccio. There have always been amphorae in this area, since the II century before Christ. Stowed in the deposits on the left side of the river Tiber, they "fed" Rome with garum and wine. The amphorae with oil, that could not be reused, were thrown on a dump at open air. The continuous "throwing" eventually created a promontory 35 meters high: Testaccio!


Note that many of these and other weird and original fountains in Rome, have all been made by the same architect around 1927: Pietro Lombardi. Each fountain includes typical elements of the "rione" (the neighborhood) it belongs to.


055 Notes: published on december 24, 2014

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