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The Trevi Fountain: A History of Rome's Artistry and Tradition

The Trevi Fountain, known as "Fontana di Trevi" in Italian, stands as one of Rome's most famous and admired landmarks. A celebration of art, architecture, and mythology, this monumental fountain has captured the imagination of both locals and visitors for centuries. Its history is a fascinating blend of creative ambition, cultural evolution, and cherished tradition.

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outside view of the trevi fountain in rome, italy

The origins of the Trevi Fountain can be traced back to Roman times when a series of aqueducts supplied the city with fresh water. The Trevi Fountain marks the terminal point of one of those ancient aqueducts, the Aqua Virgo, constructed in 19 BCE.

The decision to build a grand fountain at this site came much later, in the 17th century. The project began under Pope Urban VIII, but it was Pope Clement XII who organized a design competition in 1730.

The winning design was submitted by the artist Nicola Salvi, who proposed a theatrical creation that combined sculpture, architecture, and the natural elements of water. Construction began in 1732 and was completed in 1762, shortly after Salvi's death, by Giuseppe Pannini.

The Trevi Fountain's design is rich in symbolism and mythology. The central figure is Oceanus, the god of all water, standing on a shell-shaped chariot pulled by two sea horses, each guided by a Triton. One horse is calm, symbolizing the placid sea, while the other is restless, representing the tempestuous ocean.

The backdrop of the fountain is a triumphal arch, adorned with various sculptures, including those of Abundance and Health. The fountain also pays tribute to the legend of the young virgin who led Roman engineers to the source of the spring, an event depicted in a relief above the central arch.

One of the most enduring traditions associated with the Trevi Fountain is the practice of throwing coins into its waters. According to legend, tossing a coin over your left shoulder with your right hand ensures a return to Rome. This tradition has been popularized in films and literature and continues to attract countless participants.

The Trevi Fountain has undergone several restorations throughout its history, reflecting the challenges of preserving a complex and heavily visited monument. A significant restoration was completed in 2015, funded by the Italian fashion brand Fendi. This project not only revitalized the fountain's appearance but also implemented measures to ensure its long-term sustainability.

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