A tour around Rome is always a tour of beauty. If you are spending a whole day in Rome’s city center trying to collect as many memories and masterpieces as you can, taking a few moments to enjoy the most famous fountains in Rome will add incredible value to the quality of your trip.
The journey across the fountains of Rome is an incredibly fascinating experience because learning about their origins means learning about the succession in the power of important local clans, the actions of different popes, as well as the evolution of Rome’s urban planning. Whether it’s history or art you are after, Rome’s fountains enshrine all this.
With more than 2000 fountains, bigger and smaller, adorning streets and corners, the water element has always been crucial in Roman history and society. In the end, Roman bridges and aqueducts are not famous all over the world for no reason. Bringing water to the city and wherever they conquered was a must, and Rome was (and is) clothed with small fountains for the people to quench their thirst.
Especially if you are looking to have a budget trip, you should cherish all the masterpieces you can see for free in Rome, and the fountains are perfect landmarks to combine art and history. Many Rome fountains are the work of well-known artists while others are the beautiful creation of unknown sculptors. Many others go unnoticed even though with a story worth telling behind. With this easy guide to the most gorgeous fountains of Rome, I hope to shed some light on little-known events of the local history, culture, and society, as well as add some stops to your itinerary.
Don’t miss our guide to the best tours of Rome.
Map of Rome fountains
Trevi Fountain, Rome’s most famous fountain
Possibly the most famous fountain in Rome and in Italy, Fontana di Trevi is a spectacular example of the Italian late Baroque style. Built following the design of Nicola Salvi commissioned by Pope Clemens XII in 1732. The charm and fame of this architectural masterpiece come both from its beauty and its history.
The largest and most famous statue of the Trevi Fountain is the god Oceanus (Neptune), a masterpiece that sculptor Pietro Bracci created in 1762 that is inside the central, vaulted niche as a tribute to the god of the sea. Oceanus is leaning on a shell-shaped cart pulled by two sea horses and two tritons. On its side, there are two smaller nooks housing female statues representing abundance and salubrity and each of them shows on top a bas-relief, one representing the project of the Aqua Virgo aqueduct authorized by Agrippa and one the mythological origins of the famous pipeline.
Famous Rome Fountains in Piazza Navona
Four Rivers Fountain
The Four Rivers fountain is the largest and most spectacular among the fountains of Piazza Navona. One of the most famous works by Bernini in Rome, it was commissioned by Pope Innocent X Pamphilj with the intervention of his sister-in-law Olimpia Maidalchini. Bernini, in fact, won this project with a ruse: he made a silver model of the fountain and offered it to Donna Olimpia to be placed in an area of the Pamphilj palace where he knew the pontiff would have walked.
The fountain is a large sculptural group featuring, as the name suggests, the four largest rivers known at the time of construction: the Danube, the Nile, the Ganges, and the Rio de la Plata. On top is a 1st-century obelisk that was previously in the Circus of Maxentius in the Appian Way. This beautiful Roman fountain faces the church of Sant’Agnese in Agone, one of the masterpieces of Francesco Borromini in Rome.
Fontana del Moro
Last but not least, the third of the fountains of Piazza Navona is located on the square’s southern end facing the Pamphilj Palace and is known as the Fountain of the Moor. Its water was originally supplied by the ancient Aqua Virgo aqueduct just like the Four Rivers Fountain thanks to the pipeline built by Borromini upon commission by Pope Innocent X Pamphilj.
Fontana del Moro was designed by Giacomo della Porta in the 16th century and was the work of several artists in charge of carving dolphins, dragons, and tritons. In the mid 17th century, Bernini replaced the basin and designed the statue of the Moor that was placed in its center when commissioned by Pope Innocent X to renovate it. The Moor holds a dolphin’s tail in his hands while the dolphin’s head pours water from between his legs.
The first option was the sculpture “of the snail” (della lumaca) with two dolphins supporting a sea shell, but Donna Olimpia Maidalchini, sister in law of the pope, didn’t approve it and it was placed in Villa Pamphilj instead, where today we can see a 19th-century copy.
Fontana del Nettuno in Piazza Navona is located on the northern edge of the square front of the Pamphilj palace, today the seat of the Brazilian embassy. Also known as Calderari fountain because of the nearby alley once lined up with copper sellers and workshops, it dates back to 1574 following a design by Giacomo della Porta commissioned by Pope Gregory XIII.
Apart from embellishing the square and completing the river and marine landscape of the other two sculptures, the Neptune fountain was a celebration of the restoration of the Aqua Virgo aqueduct and the opening of a new branch that reached Campo Marzio. A sculptural group of tritons was part of the original project but it was never made. We have to wait until 1873 to see Antonio della Bitta’s Neptune fighting against the dolphins, angels, nereids, and sea horses of Gregorio Zappalà.
Fontana del Pantheon
Known also as the Fountain of Piazza Rotonda, this beautiful Renaissance Roman fountain was created by Leonardo Sormani after a design by Giacomo della Porta, the artist that made or designed the largest number of fountains in Rome.
One of the most famous fountains in Rome, its sculpture has been modified several times throughout the centuries and in 1711 Pope Clemens XI Albani ordered to add the Egyptian obelisk of Ramses II. Fed by the Aqua Virgo aqueduct, the sculptural group decorating the fountain features large mascarons, dolphins as well as coats of arms of the Albani clan.
Fountains in Rome’s Piazza del Popolo
Piazza del Popolo’s Fountain of the Lions
This is one of those Rome fountains that will see even if you are spending only one day in the city. Why? Because it’s the heart of busy Piazza del Popolo, a pedestrian and public transport hub, and entrance to the glamorous Tridente streets, Via del Corso, del Babuino and di Ripetta. Fontana dei Leoni was built by Giuseppe Valadier in the 19th century around the Egyptian obelisk Pope Sixtus V brought here from the Circus Maximus in 1589.
On the four corners of a large square-shaped staircase sit four lions gushing out large fans of water. Majestic and spectacular, in line with the beauty of the square, this fountain is a favorite hangout place among tourists and residents. You will hardly go past the square without seeing anyone sitting on the staircase, tourists taking selfies, or even babies running around and trying to jump in the water.
Make sure you read our handy and complete guide to Rome’s public transport.
Piazza del Popolo’s Neptune Fountain
Built much later than the one in Piazza Navona, this one is another fountain dedicated to the god of the sea. Located in the western hemicycle of the elliptical square towards the river, Fontana del Nettuno features a large basin full of water on top of which a large statue of the god Neptune stands between two tritons and two dolphins.
Lit up for the night, this Roman fountain becomes romantic and even more beautiful. This is probably why it’s a favorite spot for postcard pictures from Rome!
Fountain of the Goddess Roma in Piazza del Popolo
Facing the god Neptune is the fountain of Roma goddess located in the eastern hemicycle of the piazza on the slopes of the Pincio mount. The fountain itself, with a large base on the bottom and a smaller basin that collects the water gushing out of a small dish, is very similar to Neptune’s one, but obviously, the sculptural group on top is very different.
The goddess Roma, one of Rome’s most symbolic gods, fully armed, holding a spear and wearing a helmet, looks like a real warrior. The size, the majesty, and the fine art make this a monumental fountain perfectly conveys the grand impression the ruler wanted to give to what was the entrance to the historic center.
Twin Fountains in St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican
The twin fountains of Saint Peter’s Square might look identical but they are actually not. They were actually made in different periods but are both the creation of the leading artist of their time, Carlo Maderno and Gian Lorenzo Bernini. They stand each on the side of the obelisk in the middle of the square.
If we face the basilica, the fountain on the left is the one made by Maderno in 1614 once the work for the facade was completed. Inspired by an existing fountain, he installed the upper basin upside down so that the water would fall in a multitude of little spurts. Bernini rearranged the square in the second half of the 17th century and made another fountain to look like the original with only a few differences such as some of the decorative patterns and the dolphins in the base.
Don’t miss our article on Saint Peter’s Basilica.
Beautiful fountains in Rome’s Piazza Barberini
Fontana del Tritone in Piazza Barberini
Fontana del Tritone in Piazza Barberini is another beautiful fountain of Bernini in Rome. Here, we see the Triton kneeling and with the head bending backward trying to blow in the large shell he’s holding in his hands and from which the water gushes out all over the marble complex. The shell that supports the triton is the fountain’s basin and underneath we can see four dolphins, the papal emblems, and the crest with the bees, the symbol of the Barberini family.
Fed by the Aqueduct Felix, this Triton Fountain is one of the masterpieces by Bernini in Rome created between 1642 and 1643. With his majestic palace dominating the view of Piazza Barberini, Pope Urban VIII commissioned the artist a fountain as another public ornament.
Fontana delle Api (Bees’ fountain)
This might not be the most beautiful fountain in Rome but hey, it was made by Bernini so totally deserving of a spot here. And if we think that it was just meant to be a public trough, it is pretty impressive. Even though it was supposed to be a public service building, in fact, Bernini couldn’t help it and made it beautiful and worth a stop.
Commissioned to Bernini by Pope Urban VIII Barberini in 1644, the small and beautiful Fontana delle Api is also in Piazza Barberini at the beginning of Via Veneto near the church of Santa Maria della Concezione under which is the famous Capuchin Crypt that you can visit by booking one of the many underground tours of Rome.
Its water was supplied by the ancient Aqua Felix and originally it was placed in Piazza Barberini on the corner with Via Sistina, near the monumental Triton Fountain. On its shell, we can read the name of the commissioner “Urbanus VIII Pontifex Maximus” as a reminder of the pope’s plan to decorate the city and provide public service.
Fontana del Mosè monumental Rome fountain
Built between 1585 and 1587 in travertine, stucco and marble from a project by Giovanni and Domenico Fontana, the large Fountain of the Moses in Largo Bernardi is the last fountain of the Aqua Felice, the aqueduct built by Pope Sixtus V, Felice Peretti, after whom the pipeline was named.
Consisting of three large nooks with Moses in the central one and the side niches housing high-reliefs representing episodes from the Bible. On the sides, two lions Even though not in the center of a square and located at the corner with Via Venti Settembre in the busy Castro Pretorio district, do take a moment to admire one of the largest and most monumental fountains in Rome.
The lofty look is given also by the large cornice with the date of construction and the celebration of the pontiff commissioner of the work to which was added the pope’s crest supported by two angels and flanked by two small obelisks.
Quattro Fontane (The Four Fountains)
In the namesake Via delle Quattro Fontane street is a group of four fountains placed in each corner inside a large nook backed against the wall. This Renaissance fountain complex was built in the late 16th century under the rule of Pope Sixtus V Peretti to emphasize the important crossroad between Strada Pia, today Via Venti Settembre and Via del Quirinale and Strada Felice, today Via delle Quattro Fontane and Via Sistina. Strada Felice was named after the pontiff (Felice Peretti) who built it to connect the church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme to Trinità dei Monti and the papal basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in the Esquilino neighborhood.
Two of the large sculptures are believed to represent two rivers, the Arno and the Tiber, while the other two are probably Diana, the protector of the animals in Roman mythology, and Juno, patron of the feminine universe in all its forms including fertility, marriage and all things women. This cluster of Roman fountains is located near the church of San Carlino alle Quattro Fontane, one of the masterpieces of Borromini in Rome.
Fontana dei Cavalli Marini in Villa Borghese
One of the most beautiful parks in Rome, Villa Borghese is dotted with fountains. One of the most famous is the Fountain of the Sea Horses. Built at the end of the 18th century, this picturesque fountain of Rome is located in the crossroad between Via dei Cavalli Marini and the famous Viale dei Pupazzi close to Galleria Borghese.
Even though the main names behind this fountain are sculptor Vincenzo Pacetti and painter Cristoforo Unterperger, other artists took part in the project, such as Giovanni Antonio Bertè, Antonio Isopi, and Luigi Salimei. In the heart of a large basin is a smaller basin supported by four sea horses with fish-shaped bodies.
Fontana delle Tartarughe in the Jewish Quarter
A true pearl among the fountains of Rome is Fontana delle Tartarughe decorating Piazza Mattei in the Jewish Ghetto built between 1581 and 1584 by Taddeo Landini from Giacomo della Porta’s design commissioned by Pope Gregory XIII.
The turtles decorating the fountain were added in 1658 and are believed to be by Bernini. They have been stolen a couple of times, the last time in 1979 and one was never found so now the original ones are kept in the Musei Capitolini and those on the actual fountain are copies. The sculptural group is a complex work where four bronze young boys ride dolphins on shell-shaped basins. The fountain is made even more beautiful by the polychrome marbles.
The fountain is actually at the center of one of Rome’s legends. According to tradition, it was built in one night by duke Mattei to prove to his future father-in-law that he deserved to marry his daughter.
Fontana della Terrina in Piazza della Chiesa Nuova
Designed by Giacomo della Porta in the 16th century, Fontana della Terrina has been in the heart of Campo de’ Fiori until 1889, when it was dismantled and moved away to leave the space to the tall statue of Giordano Bruno.
The fountain was made by a large concave basin and due to the daily market in Campo de’ Fiori, it soon became the place where sellers washed and kept fruits and veggies. This is why in 1622 they made a lid to cover it and this is how we see it today in Piazza della Chiesa Nuova where it was placed in 1922.
Monumental Rome fountain of Fontana dell’Acqua Paola
Also known as Fontanone del Gianicolo, Italian for “big fountain of the Janiculum”, reminding both of its size and its location, Fontana dell’Acqua Paola is the exhibition of the Traiano-Paolo aqueduct and one of the largest fountains in Rome.
Built in white and polychrome marbles by Giovanni Fontana and Flaminio Ponzio, the fountain reminds of the triumphal arch from Ancient Rome and was commissioned by Pope Paul V Borghese after restoring the aqueduct. It consists of five large arches flanked by red pillars taken from the 4th-century Constantinian basilica of Saint Peter. Much of the decorations come from the Roman Forum and Nerva Forum.
Fontana di Santa Maria in Trastevere
Another very famous fountain in Rome is the one located in the heart of the Trastevere neighborhood, namely facing the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere in the namesake piazza. Even though the version that we see today was built by Carlo Fontana in 1692, the fountain has been restored, revamped, and modified several times throughout the centuries from its original building in the 15th century. As mentioned already in 1471, it is the first public fountain in Trastevere and one of the oldest monumental fountains in Rome.
Surrounded by a large staircase, this is one of the favorite hangouts in the neighborhood. Whether it’s day or night, tourists or locals, you will hardly go past without seeing groups of friends sitting and chatting below the fountain.
Fontana delle Rane in the Coppedè Quarter
The Fountain of the Frogs owes its name to the twelve frogs that decorate it. Quirky and picturesque, it perfectly matches the eclectic style of the area it’s in. Quartiere Coppedè is a 20th-century Liberty-style neighborhood designed by architect Gino Coppedè and is one of the coolest hidden gems in Rome.
The main body of the fountain rises from the center of the large pool and is decorated with male figures with fishing nets, shell-shaped basins, frogs and bees probably inspired by the art of Bernini. The whole area is surrounded by buildings decorated with animals and mythological figures.
Nasoni Fountains of Rome
Out of curiosity, and also to dispense some helpful tips, during your sightseeing you will have certainly noticed the little fountains scattered all around the city. Romans call them nasoni, Italian for big noses, and they are those cast-iron little fountains from where Rome’s drinkable water continuously pours down.
Around the city center, there are some 200 nasoni while the whole city counts some 2000. This is a great way to save on water as well as plastic. Carry your own travel bottle and you won’t have to buy a new one every time you are thirsty. They are so common that if you are staying in the city center you won’t even need to carry your bottle as you are likely to find them pretty often your way.
Fontana dei Libri (Books’ fountain)
Located between Piazza Navona and the Pantheon, Fontana dei Libri is quite recent as it was built by Roman architect Pietro Lombardi in 1927. The building of this beautiful small fountain was part of a project of Rome’s municipality to embellish the city with monuments tribute to the old neighborhoods and ancient jobs.
Part of the project was also the effort to replace all the cast-iron nasoni, deemed unaesthetic at the time, with these more beautiful fountains dispensing tap water.
Fontana dei Libri shows a deer head located in between two stacks of books to honor the seat of the university that was originally here. In fact, even though the fountain is in Via Staderari, named after the scale builders who had their workshops here, the original name of the street was Via Sapienza, “knowledge street”. The deer’s head is the symbol of Rione Sant’Eustachio where the fountain is located.
Fontana delle Naiadi in Piazza della Repubblica
The Fountain of the Naiads in Piazza della Repubblica, facing the stunning Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri, one of the most famous churches in Rome and a masterpiece of Michelangelo Buonarroti, is one of the most beautiful modern fountains of Rome.
Inaugurated in 1870 temporarily where now stands the Dogali obelisk not far from the square, Fontana delle Naiadi was commissioned by Pope Pius IX and moved to its current location in 1888. Its construction served as the last spring of the Acqua Pia Antica Marcia aqueduct in Rome.
Initially, the fountain was simply decorated with four lions in stuccowork, while its definitive look was given in 1897 by the Roman sculptor Mario Rutelli who added four monumental bronze groups portraying joyful nymphs each of them resting on a different sea animal symbolizing water in its various forms and shapes.
So in the middle of this busy square near Stazione Termini train station, you can admire the Nymph of the Oceans on a sea horse, the Nymph of the Rivers on a water snake, the Nymph of the Lakes on a swan, and the Nymph of the underground rivers on a lizard.
WANT TO READ IT LATER? PIN IT TO YOUR BOARD!