For more than two thousand years fountains have provided drinking water and decorated the piazzas of Rome. During the Roman Empire, in 98 AD, according to Sextus Julius Frontinus, the Roman consul who was named curator aquarum or guardian of the water of the city, Rome had nine aqueducts
which fed 39 monumental fountains and 591 public basins, not counting
the water supplied to the Imperial household, baths and owners of
private villas. Each of the major fountains was connected to two
different aqueducts, in case one was shut down for service.
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the aqueducts were
wrecked or fell into disrepair, and the fountains stopped working. In
the 14th century, Pope Nicholas V
(1397–1455), a scholar who commissioned hundreds of translations of
ancient Greek classics into Latin, decided to embellish the city and
make it a worthy capital of the Christian world. In 1453 he began to
rebuild the Acqua Vergine,
the ruined Roman aqueduct which had brought clean drinking water to the
city from eight miles (13 km) away. He also decided to revive the Roman
custom of marking the arrival point of an aqueduct with a mostra, a grand commemorative fountain. He commissioned the architect Leon Battista Alberti to build a wall fountain where the Trevi Fountain
is now located. Alberti restored, modified, and expanded the aqueduct
that supplied both the Trevi Fountain as well as the famous baroque
fountains in the Piazza del Popolo and Piazza Navona.
One of the first new fountains to be built in Rome during the Renaissance was the Fountain in Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere
(1499), which was placed on the site of an earlier Roman fountain. Its
design, based on an earlier Roman model, with a circular vasque on a
pedestal pouring water into a basin below, became the model for many
other fountains in Rome, and eventually for fountains in other cities,
from Paris to London
The Italian capital is one of the world’s great walking cities. Indeed, roaming around Rome on foot—or a piedi, as the locals say—proves the best way to see the sites. It encourages you and your family to engage with all the Eternal City has to offer, and allows you to share these experiences with your fellow travelers. Now’s an ideal time to go, too, as the summer season swings into action and the dollar remains strong against the euro. Here are four suggested walks that show off different, but equally enticing, sides of the city.
Baroque fountains, piazzas and churches Campo Marzio and beyond
To explore the architecture of Rome’s Baroque Centro, start at the city’s northern gate, in Piazza del Popolo, then walk south on shop-lined Via del Babuino and ivy-hung Via Margutta to Piazza di Spagna, marveling at the Spanish Steps, boat-like fountain, and twin towers of Trinità dei Monti church.