~ Roman Monographs ~

· part III ·
Main Fountains


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from 1930 to the present days

piazza Mazzini

Piazza Mazzini is a large square in the heart of the busy Della Vittoria district, where eight streets converge symmetrically, forming a regular eight-pointed star pattern; this is an unusual feature for Rome's whimsical street plan.
The central part of the square is occupied by a public garden, surrounded by trees and tall bushes that cut off the noise and the pollution of the heavy traffic that runs all around it.
piazza Mazzini piazza Mazzini piazza Mazzini
from the left: a couple of water-spouting fish, one of the imperial eagles and detail of the paving

In the middle of the garden lies a wide octagonal pool, surrounded by a walkable pathway, paved with motifs made of pebbles. Around the pool, at regular intervals, stand four small fountains. The large structure was built by architect Raffaele De Vico in 1930, while the district was still under construction; Ermenegildo Luppi is the artist who carved the sculptures.
Each fountain is topped by a short column, bearing the insignia of the Fascist regime of those years: the imperial eagle above, and the fasci in relief along the column's shaft.
The side of the fountains that looks towards the centre is shaped as a short slope, with a series of five tiny basins, each one flanked by a couple of fish; the water fills them in turn, before reaching the pool; the last basin is larger than the others, shaped as a shell, and two very long fish, emerging from nearby, approach it with their water-spouting heads, as if willing to drink.
Instead the back of the fountains, i.e. the side facing the pathway, has a nozzle decorated with another fish in relief; the water pours into a further small basin, from where it trickles into a drain below. Above the relief, the inscription ACQVA DI TREVI reminds us that the four fountains are connected to the aqueduct from which the Trevi Fountain draws water (i.e. the ancient Aqua Virgo).
The rather modest artistic value of the groups is compensated by the highly scenographic effect, also due to its setting; the decorative paving and the surrounding garden suggest that De Vico's project was vaguely inspired by ancient Rome's nymphaeums, which the architect may have tried to blend with a modern urban context.
piazza Mazzini

Being the Trevi water renowned for its good taste, it is particularly appreciated by the locals, whose private houses, instead, are connected to the Peschiera aqueduct.
Still today, passers-by who cross the square stop by the small fountains and take a sip of the best tasting water in Rome; once locals even filled bottles and tanks with it, to take home small supplies.
Over the past decades, due to carelessness by the local administrators, the fountain had fallen into a disgraceful condition; homeless and stragglers slept here at night-time, the stone parts were damaged by vandals, and the garden had almost been turned into a dump. Fortunately, by year 2000 the place was completely cleaned up, so now the fountain of piazza Mazzini is now once again the neat, welcoming place it used to be, although some parts are still in need of being throughoutly restored.


The Foro Italico ("Italian forum") is a monumental sports complex built in the early 1930s, located by the Tiber's west bank, in the northern part of its course through the city. As the name forum suggests, besides two stadiums, tennis courts, two swimming pools (indoors and outdoors), and the headquarters of Italy's Olympic committee, this wide area also includes a number of broad pathways and squares where adults and children enjoy taking a stroll.
piazzale del Foro Italico
the fountain, now dry, with one end of the Olympic Stadium in the background
The whole place was built according to the architectural style typical of the Fascist regime of those days: very simple shapes (rectangles, squares, circles, etc.), without any frills, large in size and usually made of white marble or stone; the same name of the complex used to be Foro Mussolini, until it was changed into the present one after WW II. Before Rome's Olympic Games (1960), the Foro Italico underwent some betterments, among which the enlargement of the Olympic Stadium. At the southern end of the stadium, in an open space where different paths converge, stands a fountain built by architects Mario Paniconi and Giulio Pediconi between 1933 and 1935, called the Fountain of the Sphere.
A large white sphere, without any decoration nor inscription, rests on top of a low square base, surrounded by a circular basin with sloping sides; its shape aimed at representing the universal spirit of sports. The area surrounding the fountain is paved with black and white mosaics, a kind of decoration extensively found also along the pathway that runs from the main entrance of the complex to the fountain.
Regretfully, in recent years the fountain has turned dry, and is now waiting to undergo maintainance.

the mosaics around the fountain feature sea themes


In 1936, the ancient aqueduct known as Aqua Virgo, which had been reopened and restored in the 16th century (and whose network had been improved in 1840, see details in the Aqueducts monograph and in page 17), was further lengthened by building a new stretch of duct which reached the base of the Pincio Hill.
On this occasion a new fountain was built on this spot, in a fashion based on the old custom of marking the end of a main aqueduct with a 'display' fountain, which acted both as a main outlet and a celebrative monument.
The Fountain of the Great Niche actually consists of three large niches, whose pillars support the balcony that overlooks piazza del Popolo. In the central one the water gushes from below, while in the two side ones it trickles down the wall at the back from an upper rectangular basin. In the lower part of the structure are three smaller niches, each with its own round basin. Its Neoclassic style matches that of a number of statues found along the Picio Hill's ramp, which had been arranged in the early 1800s by architect Valadier.

the Fountain of the Large Niche, on the Pincio Hill

This fountain should not be mistaken with the one bearing the same name, yet rather different in shape, located in via dei Fori Imperiali (see part I, ancient fountains).


Arnaldo Pomodoro's Large Sphere and Palazzo della Farnesina (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Adjacent to the aforesaid Foro Italico stretches one of Italy's largest buildings, called Palazzo della Farnesina (1935-56, not to be confused with Villa Farnesina in Trastevere district), which since 1959 houses the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In a corner of the wide open area in front of the building stands a modern fountain by the renowned sculptor Arnaldo Pomodoro (1968), named after the sculpture that decorates it (Large Sphere), a bronze globe 4 metres in size, which one year before had been on display in the Italian pavillion at the International Exposition in Montreal.
Geometrical shapes ripped open to reveal a complex core are a typical theme by this author (see the Novecento fountain, further in this page); similar works can also be found in the Vatican Museums, in the Guggenheim Museum (New York), etc.
The fountain itself is extremely simple, consisting of a plain double basin: the upper one, shaped as a square, contains the sculpture, while the lower one is an irregular rectangle.


piazzale degli Eroi
the main outlet of the modern Peschiera aqueduct (1949)
In the modern Trionfale district, adjacent to the Vatican, a large but not very appealing fountain marks the sign of the times. Dated 1949, this is the main outlet of Rome's most recent aqueduct, the Peschiera (see Aqueducts, page 4); therefore, despite its very modest shape, it is included in the small and very exclusive group of so-called display fountains, although it could never compare to the magic of the Fountain of Trevi, nor to the big Acqua Paola Fountain, nor to the 'lecherous' Fountain of the Naiads, and not even to the slightly botchy Fountain of the Aqua Felix (the one with the statue of the ridiculous Moses).
It consists of a round central basin, filled by a main outlet that spurts a vertical jet of water, encircled by a large number of smaller ones that form a ring; this is the fountain's only interesting part. According to the water flow, the number of the active spurts and their height may considerably vary. From the top element the water drops into four small basins below, each one with a further individual outlet, communicating with four larger ones, arranged in alternate order. Finally, all of them fill the outermost basin, round and plain, whose diameter measures approximately 20 m (65 ft).
piazzale degli Eroi Not even cheap travertine marble, but concrete was chosen for the making of this bare fountain, whose only meagre decoration consists of four small niches shaped as sea-shells. It is enough to say that the name of the obscure architect who drew it has already been forgotten!
Being located in the middle of a large square where some very busy thoroughfares form a crossing, rumors have been heard that the fountain might be removed; nevertheless, having become a popular landmark of Trionfale district, it would be a shame if in a city of art such as Rome, traffic, which is already a nuisance, should even cause the loss of a fountain, yet of lesser artistic value.


A.C.E.A. (i.e. Azienda Municipale Elettricitą ed Acqua) is the main company in charge for the supply of both running water and electric power in Rome. Its head-office is a tall modern building in piazzale Ostiense, facing St.Paul's Gate and the famous pyramid of Gaius Cestius. In a small private garden, just before the building, stands a fountain created in 1962 by Ludovico Quaroni, visible from the square. Its peculiar shape consists of a large prism made of rough panels of stone, standing vertically, whose only decoration is a band with geometric reliefs hanging along its lower half. When the fountain is open, the water gushes from many outlets at the top of the prism, creating a small waterfall along its sides, which makes the rough surface almost disappear. The water then gathers below, into a basin that surrounds the prism, whose edge is paved on two sides with radial slabs of irregular size, making an interesting contrast with the deep green of the garden.

piazzale Ostiense piazzale Ostiense
the fountain, with and without water
(picture on the left: courtesy of Stuardt Clarke)


One of Rome's latest fountains (opened in 2004) was again obtained by adding a very simple basin to a sculpture by Arnaldo Pomodoro. In this case, the location is E.U.R. district, in the southernmost suburb of the city, at the back of Rome's main sports arena and concert hall, once called Palazzetto dello Sport and in recent years relabelled Palalottomatica.
The bronze sculpture, named Novecento (i.e. "the 1900s"), is shaped as a cone; its winding surface is covered with a texture of geometrical elements such as spheres, wedges, spikes, forming intricated patterns. It stands in the centre of a plain round basin, filled with water up to its rim, so to trickle down along the side walls, drained by a circular gutter at ground level. The size of the sculpture is much larger than the author's previous work, being Novecento 21 m tall (about 69 ft); the basin too is almost equal in diameter to the height of the cone.

Due to its location, this is basically the first monument of the city that comes into sight approaching Rome from the south, along the via Pontina.

other pages in part III

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