Attraversiamo?! It’s a very sing-songy Italian expression much liked by foreigners coming to Italy, to Rome in particular. It’s used on a daily basis by hundreds of poor pedestrians who dare to cross Roman streets on zebra crossings risking their lives. It is a true sacrifice to do it there and in some other southern countries in Europe, actually. Attraversiamo might also be used literally meaning to turn a page of your life and pass on without turning back to the past. I am going to use that nice Italian word in another sense. Attraversiamo le strade di Roma lasciando l’antiquitá (let us cross the Roman streets leaving the Antiquity)… although I know it won’t be possible 🙂 ….. Siamo pronti?! (Are we ready?!) …. Allora, attrversiamo 🙂
R O M A D E L L E F O N T A N E
As Caput Mundi (the capital of the world) Rome combines the history of various epochs. The city is connected not only with Antiquity but also with the Medieval and Renaissance period as well as it houses the Holy place for all Catholics and one of the European dwarfs and smallest country in the world.
Main attractions of Rome are its fountains (only 280 in number) and churches (900 in all). For sure, the most famous and photographed is la Fontana di Trevi (the Trevi Fountain). Of course, the first association with the fountain is its appearance in Federico Fellini’s movie La dolce vita and the fabulous scene with Anita Ekberg and Marcello Mastroianni bathed in it under the moonlight. In the second place, there is long-standing coin tossing tradition which will ensure you a return to La Cittá Eterna. But don’t think you should just stop by the fountain, take a one-euro coin and throw it like a small stone in the waters of the fountain. Noooo…. If you do want to come back to Rome, you should follow the original legend that says that you should throw a coin with your back to the Trevi, the coin should be thrown from your right hand and over your left shoulder. Nice, a? 😀 All these coins thrown mainly by tourists, amount about 3 000 euros every day and are donated to the Catholic charity – Caritas, which uses them for families in need in the capital city.
Apart from these most recent associations and traditions, the Trevi Fountain is an old-age, even ancient by origin. Why? It is situated at the end of Auqa Virgo that was the place where Marco Vipsanius Agrippa (Emperor Octavian Augustus’ son-in-law) got constructed a small fountain with three collective basins to it in the 19th century BC. It was part of the 22-kilometre aqueduct that brought water to Rome and supplied Roman hot baths for over four hundred years. I am opening a bracket here. The place of the spring was called Aqua Virgo (Virgin Waters) because a legend says that a young virgin (virgo) named Trivia showed that place to Agrippa and his soldiers. The bracket closed. So, later in centuries the former collective basins of the ancient fountain and aqueduct turned into the beautiful and awe-inspiring Trevi Fountain. And how did that happen?
The fountain obtained its recent shapes in the first half of the 17th century following Bernini’s original plans and design. The prominent architect was commissioned the design of the fountain by Urbano VIII. The latter was the first pope to long for the turning of the fountain into a splendid architectural masterpiece. Bernini’s project was extremely expensive and in order to gather the money, the Pope increased the local taxes on wine. Unfortunately, Bernini and Urbano died and the project was halted for some 60 years. At the beginning of the following century it was taken by Nicola Salvi and accomplished under the papacy of Clemente XII. As to the name of the fountain, some assume it was named after virgin Trivia while the others think it was named after the eponymous square where tre vie (three roads) meet.
A quick and last note here. During the construction works of the fountain, there were natives who were against it as usual. One of them was a barber whose barber’s shop was situated near the right end of the fountain. He didn’t accept that project and thought it was a true waste of time and money. His critical attitude made some supporters of the fountain take measures against his vilification. One morning they put an enormous pot called Ace of Hearts (because the pot resembled the card of the same name) at the right edge of the construction terrain. Their main aim was to limit the barber’s visibility to the construction works and thus to make him stop to “cast spells” on the project. Despite such “attackers” of the project, the fountain is a reality now and attracts millions of people annually together with other Bernini’s masterpieces like the Fountain of the Four Rivers and the Moor Fountain.
Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi is another iconic landmark of Rome. The 17th century masterpiece has four allegorical characters and an ancient Egyptian obelisk above them. They are the four river Gods that symbolize the four continents known at that time, i.e. the Danube (Europe), the Rio de la Plata (the Americas), the Nile (Africa) and the Ganges (Asia). The neighbouring fountain on La Piazza Navona is the 16th century Fontana del Moro. Its architect was Giacomo della Porta who originally designed a fountain with four tritons and a dolphin in the centre. Later on Bernini renovated it by adding a central figure of a Moor holding a tail of a dolphin in his hand.
The Berninis’ works (sun and bee ornaments being the most distinguished elements in them) are almost everywhere across Rome. If you move to Piazza di Spagna you will enjoy the splendor of another fountain – Fontana della Barcaccia (The Fountain of the Old/Ugly Boat). The masterpiece belongs to Pietro Bernini – the father of Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Actually, when the father was commissioned this project by Urbano VIII in 1629, he was helped by his more famous son. The idea of the fountain was given by the Pope himself and it goes with one legend. There was a terrible flood of the Tiber at the Christmas period of 1598. Rome was flooded all over by the river waters and the only possible way to move around was in boats. When the flood water subsided a fishing boat stranded in Piazza di Spagna and it greatly impressed the Pope. In turn, he decided to have a fountain constructed at that very place commemorating the great flood of 1598. Nowadays this boat (some call it an ugly boat, some refer to it as an old boat) can be admired by millions of tourists and locals alike and it could be viewed better from the Spanish Steps.
La Scalinata della Trinitá dei Monti is a stairway of 135 steps built in 1723-1725 for the main purpose of linking Piazza Trinitá dei Monti (with the Bourbon Spanish Embassy and Trinitá dei Monti Church) located at the top to Piazza di Spagna (with the Holy See, then located in Palazzo Monaldeschi) at the base. This architectural stairway with ramps and stairs was a feat of Francesco De Sanctis and it was commissioned by Pope Innocent XIII. The Spanish Steps have still been playing the role of a gathering place for writers, painters and artists since the times when Piazza di Spagna was full of elegant hotels, inns and residences (like that one on the right corner that belonged to English poet John Keats who lived and died there). So, my humble piece of advice is to visit La Scalinata in spring time when the ramps are “covered” with blossoming flowers and colours and to contemplate the architectural heritage around you. Surely, this “spring-art” scene will deeply thrill your artistic soul.
Did you enjoy this Roman-Renaissance-Baroque trip (or I’d better call it “Roman-fountain” trip)? Yeap? Do you want more of Rome? Yes? Okay …Then, let’s take a trompe d’oeil journey in Rome. Off we goooo … click-click