Fountains in Rome: Look But Don’t Leap

Fountain of the Four Rivers in Piazza Navona, Rome
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Rome’s grand, historic fountains look awfully inviting after a hot day of sightseeing. But you absolutely, positively should not try to cool off in any of them.

While one could blame the summer sun for encouraging this type of behavior—Rome’s temperatures reach the mid-80s (higher than 30 celsius) from as early as May to as late as October—one could also blame the photographic and cinematic qualities of these beautiful basins.

Watch Anita Ekberg in one of the best scenes in movie history:

“Siamo sbagliando tutti.” – “We are all making a mistake.”

Cooling off in a Roman fountain has long been a fineable offense, no matter if you’re overheating or “doin’ it for the ‘gram’.” And it is one of a number of rules in Rome that address the inconsiderate behavior of tourists.

Following are some of the historic fountains that are often abused by sun-weary or misbehaving tourists. Of course—I shouldn’t have to tell you this!—all of Rome’s fountains are off-limits for bathing. But hopefully this post will reach those who need a lesson in travel etiquette.

Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain
It’s tempting, but you cannot swim in the Trevi Fountain. Source

No, you can not swim in the Trevi Fountain. Many people have tried. In fact, the famous 18th century fountain has become so mobbed by tourists in recent years that there could come a day when the entire site is inaccessible.

Barcaccia Fountain at the base of the Spanish Steps

La Barcaccia Fountain at the base of the Spanish Steps
Sculpted by Pietro Bernini (with assistance from his son Gian Lorenzo) in the early 17th century, La Barcaccia is affectionately known as “the bathtub.” Don’t try to wade into it.

Although the Barcaccia Fountain is affectionately known as “the bathtub,” you are not allowed to bathe in it. Restored in 2014, this Baroque fountain at the base of the Spanish Steps has already been damaged by modern-day barbarians.

Fountains of Piazza Navona

Fountain of Neptune in Piazza Navona, Rome
Fountain of Neptune (1574) / Photo
Fountain of the Four Rivers in Piazza Navona, Rome
Fountain of the Four Rivers (1651) / Photo
Fountain of the Moor in Piazza Navona, Rome
Fountain of the Moor (1575) / Photo

Tourists in Rome love to stay in Piazza Navona. And the large city square’s prominent fountains— Bernini’s Four Rivers Fountain and Giacomo della Porta’s Fountain of the Moor and Fountain of Neptune, all constructed with wide basins—have all been jumped into at some point. The oldest of these fountains dates back to 1574, which means that these fountains are older than some tourists’ countries! Control yourselves, people.

Fountain of the Two Seas at the Vittoriano Monument

Fountain representing the Adriatic Sea, part of the Fountain of the Two Seas (Fontana dei Due Mari) at the Vittoriano Monument in Rome / photo

This two-part fountain, flanking the the base of the monument that houses Italy’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, is known as the Fountain of the Two Seas (Fontana dei Due Marione of the newer fountains in the city). But it is still off-limits to bathers, a fact that was unknown or ignored by rowdy tourists who skinny-dipped in broad daylight.

Madonna dei Monti Fountain

Madonna dei Monti fountain in Rome’s Monti neighborhood / Photo

Monti, a district that sits between the Colosseum and Termini train station, is one of Rome’s hippest neighborhoods. Its main Piazza Madonna dei Monti is a favorite gathering spot for locals and tourists alike. But locals wouldn’t dare dance in Monti’s central fountain, a faux pas committed by some young tourists in 2014. This fountain dates back to 1585.

Last updated on September 18th, 2022

Post first published on July 18, 2019

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