A Voice of the “Eternal City”


The sight and sound of Rome’s many fountains moved Italian composer Ottorino Respighi to compose a suite entitled “The Fountains of Rome.” Let’s visit one of the most stunning examples​—the Trevi Fountain.

As we walk down a narrow street that leads to the fountain and turn a corner, we are greeted by a sight that takes our breath away. It is the huge Trevi Fountain, 65 feet wide [20 m] and 85 feet [26 m] high, which dominates a small square. What an impressive structure to be tucked away in such a confined space!

The Trevi Fountain was commissioned by Pope Clement XII and designed by Italian architect Niccolò Salvi. Construction was started in 1732 and completed in 1762. The fountain is fed by the first-century B.C.E. Aqua Virgo aqueduct, which begins some eight miles [13 km] from the city.

The theme of the fountain, which is built against the facade of a palace, is the sea. The mythical figure Oceanus (or, some say, Neptune) stands proudly in his shell-shaped chariot, controlling the flood that cascades beneath him. As water gushes around the other figures and tumbles over the rocks below, it sounds like waves crashing against the shore. The basin takes up a large part of the piazza, giving the impression that the whole square is part of the fountain.

Every day hundreds of visitors pour into the tiny square and toss coins into what is one of Rome’s biggest tourist attractions. Once a week, the fountain is drained. The money left by tourists, which averages $11,000 a week, is then collected and donated to a religious charity.

If, as Respighi believed, the fountains sing with the voice of the city, then the Trevi Fountain stands out as a soloist​—exceptional among the many fountains that are admired by visitors to Rome, the so-called Eternal City.