~ Roman Monographs ~

part II
Small Fountains


page 1 page 2 page 3


fountain with a she-wolf's head
The nasoni are not the only type of mass-produced fountain fouund in Rome. Around the 1930s, a certain number of white travertine prysms, whose simple design is consistent with that of most buildings of the same age, were set especially in public gardens and parks; a few of them were also placed in the central districts, in addition to the pre-existing cast iron cylinders. As a nozzle, the new fountains had the head of a she-wolf, the symbol of Rome, cast in bronze.

one of the few fountains with the fasci

two she-wolf nozzles; due to an overflow, the one above
spouts water both from its mouth and from the upper hole
Several of them are extant, but very few still have the original she-wolf's head which, in the case of damage or theft, was often replaced with a plain pipe (see the picture in the introduction).
During the same period, a smaller number of fountains decorated with the fasci (a symbol of the regime of those days) were also made; similar in design to the previous ones, they had three fasci in green marble on each side, and a plain nozzle (picture above); now only the trace of the original decoration is left on the very few surviving specimens.
on these nozzles the upper hole was located
between the eyes or (left) on the animal's muzzle

Much prettier than the mass-produced ones are the so-called district fountains. They form a series of nine, built in 1927-1928 by architect Pietro Lombardi, to whom Rome's governor had commissioned a number of small fountains for the benefit of Rome's historical districts, each of which inspired by the features of its own rione; originally they were ten, but one was destroyed in 1943 by a WWII bombing.

  • the Fountain of Monti district
  • the Fountain of the Artists for Campo Marzio district
  • the Fountain of the Books for Sant'Eustachio district
  • the Fountain of the Pine-cone for Pigna district
  • the Fountain of the Rudder for Ripa district
  • The Fountain of the Cask for Trastevere district
  • the Fountain of the Tiaras for Borgo district
  • The Fountain of the Cannon-balls for Borgo district
  • the Fountain of the Semicircle for Borgo district (see below)
  • the fountain for San Lorenzo district, no longer extant

  • (← left) the fountain of the Tiaras and (↑ above) the fountain of the Artists, of the Pine-cone and of Monti district

    Only some of them are shown above, but all of them are featured in The 22 Rioni section, in the page dedicated to the relevant district.

    Among Rome's historical districts, Borgo is the only one that had three different fountains dedicated to its features, but only two of them are still in place: the Fountain of the Tiaras (next to the Vatican boundary, referring to the pope's traditional headgear) and the Fountain of the Cannon-balls (at the opposite end of the district, dedicated to the nearby Sant'Angelo Castle).
    They both draw water from the Acqua Pia-Marcia aqueduct; its making had been sponsored by Pius IX, the last 'pope king', after whom it had been named.
    Before the district fountains were built, an earlier small output already provided Borgo with water from the same aqueduct; it stands halfway along Borgo Pio (right).

    ← Fountain of the Cannon-balls

    Fountain of the Acqua Pia-Marcia →

    the fountain in Borgo district drawing Trevi water (1898)
    In the same district, the small fountain of the Acqua Angelica (as its inscription says), built in 1898, was connected to the Acqua Vergine aqueduct; it once stood by the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, next to the no longer extant Porta Angelica (read more about this gate in The Walls of the Popes, part I, page 1). In 1939, when also the church was taken down, the fountain was moved to the nearby piazza delle Vaschette, where it had to be set below the ground level of the square, as due to the long distance from the main course of the aqueduct (see Aqueducts, page 2), the water reaches this spot with a rather low pressure, insufficient for a fountain at street level.

    A third fountain built by Pietro Lombardi for Borgo district was once found in piazza Scossacavalli, a square whose location, up to the early 1930s, corresponded to the central part of via della Conciliazione (i.e. the wide avenue leading to St.Peter's); there the fountain stood next to an earlier and larger one by Carlo Maderno, described in part III, page 13. When the whole central part of the district was taken down for the making of the aforesaid avenue, both fountains were removed and stored for several years. But while in 1957 the reopening of the larger one, in a central district, was openly publicised, this failed to happen for the smaller one, which in 1964 was almost stealthily set up again in the norther suburb of Tomba di Nerone, by a small war memorial stone. So for a long time the small fountain was believed to be lost.

    the fountain in piazza Scossacavalli (Borgo), around 1930 →

    the fountain, in its present location
    Only a few years ago, the son of Pietro Lombardi, who by coincidence was passing along the Cassian way, recognised it and wrote an article, giving news of his finding.
    It consists of a semicircular basin, with a low pillar in the centre and two similar ones in the corners, each of which bears two reliefs: an eight-pointed star (central pillar) and a lion's head (side pillars) and, below, three hills and Rome's coat of arms, respectively.

    coat of arms
    of Sixtus V
    The star, the lion's head and the hills refer to the coat of arms of Borgo which, in turn, borrowed these symbols from that of pope Sixtus V, by the time the district was included in Rome's municipality (1586).

    the coat of arms of Borgo district (above right)
    and one of the fountain's side pillars →

    Three more small fountains are worthy of being mentioned, because of their design that makes them look older than their real age.
    One in via Paolina features a cherub, in a Renaissance-like fashion despite being dated 1930 (actually, 'Year VIII' of the fascist regime). It is reached by the Acqua Pia-Marcia.
    A second one in piazza della Cancelleria, built in the same years (1928-30), is curiously shaped as a triangle. From a five-petal rose in the centre of a large cardinal coat of arms the water pours into a small basin, similar to the old troughs described in page 1. The flower is the heraldic device of cardinal Raffaele Riario, a nephew of pope Sixtus IV (1471-84) and the founder of the large Chancellery Palace, on the opposite side of the square, decorated with many similar roses, while the griffon in the upper part of the coat of arms refers to Parione district (for both, see Parione in The Rioni section). It draws water from the Acqua Vergine aqueduct.
    (↑ above) triangular fountain with the coat of arms
    of cardinal Riario and Parione district's griffon;
    (← left) Renaissance-looking fountain in via Paolina

    The third one, of similar age, has a nozzle in the shape of a bear's head, and draws water from the Aqua Virgo, as the fountain clearly says in Italian (Acqua Vergine). The bear recalls the nearby 15th century Bear Inn (see The Rioni, Ponte), which stands at the bottom of the same street.

    (← left) small fountain in via di Monte Brianzo with a bear's head (above ↑)

    small fountain by the oak of Torquato Tasso →

    Along the road that crosses the Janiculum Hill, by the old oak known as that of poet Torquato Tasso (see The Rioni, Trastevere), a small open air theatre was created in 1619; on the same spot, along the road, a small fountain dated 1925 is decorated with a lyre and a sword, symbols of epic poetry, referring to the aforesaid theatre.

    Another rather popular output is the one called the Carlotta Fountain. Its name refers to the naive relief of an imaginary woman with long hair, spouting water into a small cylindrical basin. It hangs in a charming corner in the heart of Garbatella, a district built from 1920 to 1929.
    The heavy refurbishments carried out in several parts of central Rome during the early decades of the 20th century left many families without a home; these people were taken to Garbatella, almost as refugees. In fact, in those days this used to be a faraway and rather ill-famed suburb.
    In time, though, it was gradually absorbed by the expanding urban area, and well connected to the rest of the city. Since most of its old typical houses are perfectly preserved, it is now one of Rome's most charming districts.
    To find the tiny square where the fountain is located may be difficult, even with a map, as the narrow streets of Garbatella are like a labyrinth. But ask any of the local inhabitants how to reach the Carlotta Fountain: they can tell you blindfold!

    The list of Rome's small fountains is much longer; some of the ones that have not been mentioned so far, simply named after their location, are remembered in the following pictures.

    (← left and above ↑)
    the Carlotta Fountain

    small fountains in piazza Iside (c.1900)...

    ...in via Nicola Zabaglia, shaped as a jug (1931)...

    ...and in piazza Santa Croce in Gerusalemme (1926)

    Before leaving the realm of small fountains for the more famous ones, built in larger scale, an oddity worth of being mentioned (bottom right).

    pretty fountain in piazza Messico
    The Fountain of the Dog is located in the central via Veneto, on the side of the street opposite the Embassy of the USA. This tiny output, barely noticed, maybe 60 cm (2 ft) high, was built by the owner of a nearby bar for the benefit of the pets that stroll with their masters along the famous street of the Dolce Vita. The three letters above the dog's head, ABC, referred to the name of the bar, now no longer there.

    the Fountain of the Dog

    the fountain in the Foro Italico,
    with plain L-shaped elements

    small fountain on the Janiculum Hill

    one of two twin fountains
    in piazza Perin del Vaga

    * * *

    PART I

    page 1

    page 2

    page 3