Forget the masterpieces by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Giacomo della Porta, the most famous fountains in Rome are the nasoni! What are they, you ask? The little cast-iron nasoni public fountains in Rome are to be found around every corner in the city.
In one of the recent tours we took in Rome, I saw a Roman police officer even helping out a tourist and suggesting the right way to use them to properly drink. The tourist was a foreigner and for the first time, I actually realized there are many people who have a hard time drinking from the nasoni public fountains in Rome! This had never occurred to me, but apparently, a guide to properly use these typical Rome public fountains is much needed.
This compelled me to write a detailed guide on how to properly use the nasoni little fountains in Rome to avoid getting all wet and actually manage to drink something, not before some mention of the history behind these lovely public service fountains.
What are the nasoni? A little history
What Romans affectionately call nasoni are little cast-iron fountains that pour free drinkable water 24/7 non-stop.
The origins of these little fountains are to be traced between 1872 and 1874 when Rome’s mayor was Luigi Pianciani. The idea of the mayor and his councilor Rinazzi was to supply free drinking water in the city center and in all the other Roman districts.
This is mainly how these small cast-iron fountains came to be. Cylindrical in shape and measuring around 120 cm (47 inches) in height and 100 kg (220 lbs), they provide free water day and night to locals and visitors, as well as pets that can drink from the bottom when the water reaches the grate before falling into the sewage duct.
Later in the years, the shape of these fountains slightly changed and the original three dragon-shaped spouts were replaced by only one central nozzle. This originated the nickname “nasone” which translates into “big nose” (nasoni is the plural form)
Along with the black cast-iron nasoni, around town, you can also find some built in travertine known as the fountains “della lupa imperiale”, of the imperial she-wolf, because of the brass she-wolf head. Built between the 1920s and the 1930s, there are still around 70 of them mainly placed in parks and in the Olympic Village in the Flaminio quarter near Ponte Milvio, one of Rome’s historic bridges.
Decorated with the ubiquitous Roman symbol of the SPQR acronym, these small public fountains are iconic and very handy. Romans are in fact very proud of them and always use them when out and about in the city to drink or refresh with the ever-cold water.
Where are the nasoni public fountains in Rome?
The whole Rome territory counts some 2500 nasoni, 280 of which are inside the Aurelian walls and 200 scattered around the Centro Storico.
Apart from these typical nasoni, there are other 114 small fountains populating the city center, many gushing out water from the wall, like the convenient ones in Via della Conciliazione near the Vatican and in Via della Fontanella di Borghese, and even the famous Barcaccia fountain in Piazza di Spagna.
With so many of these little public fountains furnishing the streets of Rome, you will hardly need to buy mineral water. In fact, I always recommend packing your own reusable travel bottle when traveling to Rome because it’s super easy to refill, making you save good money.
An easy way to spot these little nasoni public fountains in Rome is to download the Waidy Wow app by ACEA water company. The app, available on both Google Play and App Store, will help you find the nasoni, create and follow routes to discover water-related locations and learn historical information and anecdotes about Rome’s fountains and drinking water.
How to use the nasoni fountains – Step-by-step guide
So let’s say that you are out and about in Rome and get thirsty. Sometimes, especially in the city center, bars and street vendors sell small bottles of water quite expensive, but thanks to the nasoni, you can save and always have free drinkable water at hand.
But what do you need to do to use and drink from these Roman public fountains?
There are mainly two ways: by refilling your bottle or by drinking directly from the fountain.
While filling your bottle is a pretty straightforward practice, drinking from the fountain can be hard at times. These are three easy steps to take in order to drink without getting wet:
- Get on the side of the fountain and slightly lean on it
- Place your finger or a couple of fingers at the bottom of the nozzle’s main hole to close it and block the water from coming down. This way, the water comes out from the little hole on the upper part of the nozzle.
- Slightly lean forward and drink fresh water from the little stream of water coming out upwards from the smaller hole located on top of the fountain’s spout.