A Dip in the Trevi
By Natalie Jenkins
The Trevi fountain, located in the Piazza di Trevi, is one of the most popular tourist locations in Rome. On several occasions throughout my five weeks of staying in Rome, I would turn the corner and unexpectedly see something beautiful; this pattern occurred with regard Trevi multiple times. While I did not take a dip in the fountain or fall in love with an Italian journalist like what happens in the famous Trevi Fountain scene in La Dolce Vita, I did share an experience that has infamously occurred at this fountain within cinematic works. Coinciding with the theme of love, I decided it was worth it to spend five cents to see if the famous coin throwing was true. One of the most famous aspects of this fountain is the myth that says by throwing one coin in the fountain over your right shoulder, you will come back to Rome, a second coin and you will meet an Italian love and a third coin you will marry that person. This concept was made famous by the 1954 film Three Coins in the Fountain, which we studied in Dr Carl’s Cinematic Rome class. Wanting the whole Trevi Fountain experience, I participated in this ritual as millions have done before me for the past 60 years. Throwing a coin into the Trevi Fountain felt like a travelers accomplishment; as if it were something so monumental, I could put it on and cross it off my bucket list.
Upon doing this, I noticed other travelers tossing coins into the fountain too. It became apparent to me that this practice is so well known that people from all around the world traveled to partake in this same ritual. While some were tossing coins in, other couples were taking photos together with the fountain as if they were sharing the moment between them and the fountain itself. This just goes to show that the Trevi has such a large presence in present-day Rome, Roman history and in the realm of famous world landmarks.
The Trevi Fountain is the largest fountain in Rome and one of the most famous in the world. In 19 B.C. it served as one of the many Roman aqueducts that carried water to the people of ancient Rome and was used as a bathing and fountain station. The Aqua Virgo aqueduct built under Marcus Agrippa, Agustus’ son-in-law, underwent construction and has supplied water to the piazza since. The fountain and piazza were both central parts of the Roman community because of this. In 1769, the Trevi was refurbished under Pope Urban VIII to renew its glamour and redefine this area as a central part of Rome.
The ancient aqueducts were essential to Rome in the past because they enabled bathing and hygiene practices; today they are essential because they supply water to decorative fountains and public drinking fountains throughout the city. In other words, the waterways of Rome are absolutely essential to modern life. We must acknowledge that water is life, and without effective distribution, there would have been no great Roman civilization.
One of the most beautiful aspects of the Trevi Fountain to me is the symbolism and meaning behind the decorations and sculptures. As a Communications major at Colorado State, I spend a lot of my time in classes analyzing visual symbols and interpreting what they stand for and why the objects placement is significant. The Trevi we see today takes on a Baroque style with highly ornate and extravagant design. The center-most prominent sculpture is of the Greek God Oceanus, one of the lesser gods of the seas, rivers and springs. Oceanus is being pulled by two seahorses, one is wild and strong, the other is weak. This is to represent the different moods of natural water. The two goddesses represented in the artwork are Abundance and Health. The Goddess of Abundance holds a horn of plenty and a vase. This is to represent an abundance of crop, fruit and water for the people of Rome. The Goddess of Health is depicted in the fountain to grant good health and long life. I believe that these gods and goddesses were chosen to be displayed at the Trevi Fountain to serve as mythological encouragement in bringing good fortune to the people of ancient (and possibly present-day) Rome.
I can also attest to the ambiance of the Trevi Fountain at night based on several evening trips my friends and I took to visit the Piazza di Trevi. The lights in the pool help illuminate the decor of the fountain, including the statues of Abundance, Heath and Oceanus. Because of this, the lighting draws attention to the root of the Trevi Fountain, which was for the preservation of life, growth and health. Now, regardless of the time of day, visitors can admire the history of the fountain, the promise of the Aqua Virgo and the 17th-century artwork.
Today, the Trevi is marveled at by millions of tourists and Italians alike, both in person and through the media. Even those who have yet to explore Rome have an idea of what this fountain looks like. Several aspects that I found interesting about the present day Trevi Fountain are its donations to local groups that fight hunger, the heightened security around the fountain and the millions of tourists who visit the site each year.
The fountain collects roughly 3.000 euro per day from people tossing coins in and making wishes. Starting in 2001, money has been collected every night and donated to a Catholic charity called Caritas. This organization helps provide food and shelter to poor people in Rome. I believe that this is very important. While many may not know that this is where their money ends up, it is nice that there is a philanthropic aspect to this tradition. As of April 2019, a vote was passed that gives some of the Trevi Fountain money to the government for public city improvements. This change was very controversial among local Romans between those who want all of the funds to go toward people and others who want the funds to go toward maintaining the city’s cultural sites, like the fountain itself.
24 hours a day, the Trevi has security guard and police presence. This is to ensure that the fountain is not defaced intentionally or unintentionally. During the day it is common for kids to try to climb on the sides of the sculpture or for people to put their hands in to feel the cool blue water. I believe it is important for people to watch over the fountain in order to assist in the preservation of this monument for generations to come.
Approximately nine million tourists visit the Trevi Fountain per year. Because of its presence in Italian and international cinematic works and its rich cultural background, the Trevi Fountain has a celebrity-like status around the globe.
My time in Rome has been phenomenal and this is a trip that I will never forget. From the guided walking tours led by Dr. Carl and Dr. Julia to Roman cultural sites like to Trevi Fountain, to exploring the city and nightlife with my classmates, this city has welcomed me in and has taught me the importance of valuing difference among cultures and who history can influence present day.
About the Author
Natalie Jenkins is a Communications Studies and Interdisciplinary Liberal Arts Double Major at Colorado State University. From San Francisco, California, Natalie has made a home for herself in Fort Collins where she is active in the College of Liberal Arts, Fraternity and Sorority Life, and works as an Admissions Ambassador Tour Guide. Natalie is so grateful to have been on this trip because it gave her a chance to not only meet other wonderful CSU students, but an opportunity to engage with a city full of culture, history, excitement and lots of gelato. This is an experience Natalie will never forget and she hopes to return to the Eternal City someday in the future.