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. See Anita Ekberg in one of the best scenes in movie history:
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, all of Rome’s fountains are off-limits for bathing — I shouldn’t have to tell you this! But hopefully this post will reach those who need a lesson in travel etiquette.
Do Not Cool Off In These Roman Fountains!
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. As of this writing, Rome has begun to limit access to the Trevi by cordoning off the stairs around it for two hours per day. One of my worst April Fool’s Day jokes may one day be true.
Barcaccia Fountain at the base of the Spanish Steps
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
Piazza Navona is a favorite place for Roman tourists to congregate. And its 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 yourself, people.
Fountain of the Two Seas at the Vittoriano Monument
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
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: December 17, 2020