The Colosseum and the Trevi Fountain are 2 of the worldwide famous Italian historical landmarks and certainly the most visited at any time of the year. In this article, I will reveal many interesting facts about the thousand-year history behind these masterpieces of Italian art and architecture and I will give you some tips to visit them at their best.
The post also includes practical information on entrance fees and where to eat well in the surrounding area at a reasonable price.
THE TREVI FOUNTAIN AND COLOSSEUM LOCATION
Both monuments are located in the historic center of Rome in central Italy. If you are visiting Rome and planning an itinerary among the most significant historical monuments, you should definitely visit both the Trevi Fountain and the Colosseum, which are just a few minutes walk from each other.
HOW TO GO FROM TREVI FOUNTAIN TO COLOSSEUM AND VICE VERSA
The most immediate way to get from the Trevi Fountain to the Colosseum is on foot, through the spectacular Via dei Fori Imperiali, the distance is 1.5 km and takes about 20 minutes.
If you use public transportation, take bus number 117 from Via Del Tritone and get off in front of the Colosseum, on a normal traffic day it will take you about 15 minutes.
TREVI FOUNTAIN: HISTORY AND MOST INTERESTING FACTS
This fountain, the most famous fountain in Rome, has a very long history. The current appearance, which dates back to the 18th century, represents only the latest and most massive renovation.
It all began in the year 19 BC, when the commander Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, the right hand man of Emperor Augustus, brought to Rome the water that flowed near Salone, along the Collatina Road, through an aqueduct 20 km long, also called “Aqua Virgo”.
This aqueduct is the only one still working today of the 11 monumental aqueducts built by the ancient Romans. A masterpiece of hydraulic engineering, the water flows at a gradient of only 30 cm per km so that from the source to the “exhibition” there are only 6 meters of difference in height! The “exhibition” or final part of the aqueduct is precisely the splendid Trevi Fountain.
At the time of Agrippa, the fountain consisted of 3 simple basins with as many spouts. During the Middle Ages, the area of Piazza di Trevi was protected by soldiers who regulated access to the fountain, to prevent the people from taking the water for free.
It was not until the Renaissance that a pope decided to invest large sums in the restoration of the fountain, replacing the three basins with a larger one. From that moment on, papal power took over in the city and the restorations in all the squares of Rome were remarkable. Pope Urban 8th in the 17th century commissioned the famous sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini to transform the fountain into a grandiose work of art. Bernini had the square where the fountain is located enlarged and gave the fountain its current orientation, but he died that the work was unfinished.
Pope Clement 12th invited the best artists of the time to submit projects and chose Nicola Salvi, of Bernini’s school, who started the work to make the Trevi Fountain the masterpiece we see today. Salvi died prematurely and Giuseppe Pannini completed the work, which was inaugurated in 1762.
THE STATUES OF THE TREVI FOUNTAIN
The sculptures are made of travertine, a softer type of marble. The entire group of statues is the work of the sculptor Pietro Bracci. The fountain covers the smaller side of Palazzo Poli for 20 meters in width and 26 in height.
From the inside of the central niche stands the imposing statue of “Ocean” (in photo 2) on a shell-shaped cart, pulled by two sea horses representing the two qualities of the ocean, one “Placid” and the other “Agitated“, and guided by as many tritons.
At the sides of the central niche, there are two lateral niches, in which there are two statues representing Abundance (on the left) and Salubrity (on the right). The two statues are surmounted by two bas-reliefs depicting, respectively, one the legend of Agrippa approving the project of the aqueduct and the other the young girl showing the thirsty soldiers the sources of water.
The fountain ends with the large travertine cliff that widens to cover the base of the building and plunges into the large basin with raised edges that symbolizes the sea. Many representations of plants and animals have been found on the cliff: figs, ivy, capers, artichokes, vines, a snail, and a lizard.
LEGENDS ON THE THE TREVI FOUNTAIN
Noteworthy is the legend linked to the big vase placed on the right side of the fountain and nicknamed “ace of cups“, for its similarity with the homonymous game card, according to which Salvi himself had it placed there so that a barber, who disturbed him with his continuous criticisms, could no longer see the works.
Among the legends that are told about the famous Trevi Fountain the most famous is certainly the one according to which the one who throws a coin into the fountain, strictly from his back, will return to Rome.
The immense fame of the Trevi Fountain came because the famous Italian director Federico Fellini in 1960 decided to make the two actors Anita Ekberg and Marcello Mastroianni bathe in the fountain in what is the most famous scene of the film “La Dolce Vita“. Years later, the tragi-comic Neapolitan actor Totò in an episode of the film “Totò Fraud” tries to sell the fountain to a tourist, telling him how much money he collects every week from the bottom of the fountain.
ENTRANCE AND TICKETS TO THE TREVI FOUNTAIN
Access to the fountain is free. To visit it at its best, and especially to get some great photos, you need to get there early in the morning and on weekdays to avoid the crowds.
TIP: You will see many tourists buying ice cream at the gelateria in front of the fountain…beware, locals never do this! The ice cream there costs much more than it does at other gelateria where it is much more flavorful…
COLOSSEUM: HISTORY OF THE BUILDING SYMBOL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE
In the year 68 AD the Senate officially deposed Emperor Nero, who fled from Rome and ended his own life and with it the Augustan dynasty, which had founded the Roman Empire. The vacant throne caused a civil war backed by many rivals and in a year 4 emperors succeeded on the throne. The one who will win it is a figure radically different from Nero: Titus Flavius Vespasian.
Vespasian gives life to the second great dynasty of the Empire, that of the Flavians. Vespasian came to power at the age of 60, after a life spent in the service of the Empire as a commander. It is he who is appointed by Nero as a General and sent to suppress the revolt in Judea. It is with his hands full of the booty of Jerusalem that Vespasian returns to Rome, thus securing the favor of the people, impoverished by the insane spending required by the many works of Nero.
When he comes to power Vespasian needs to be known by the people. He decides to use the war booty to build the Colosseum. Vespasian takes the immense property of Nero known as the “Domus Aurea“, drains the lake that was in the center of the park that surrounded Nero’s villa, and there builds the Colosseum.
The Colosseum was the place where even the poorest people could attend free shows in the same way as the nobles and the Emperor himself.
ENTRANCE TICKET TO THE COLOSSEUM
Although the view of the Colosseum from the outside is spectacular and satisfying, you have to go inside to understand the scope of its architecture. Reservation is required. The ticket costs €18, including presale fees, and also grants access to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. Reservations and payments can be made online or by phone. All useful information can be found on the website https://www.coopculture.it
HOW TO REACH THE COLOSSEUM
To reach the Colosseum by public transportation, take the Metro Line B and get off at the “Colosseum” stop.
WHERE TO EAT NEAR THE COLOSSEUM
A short walk from the Colosseum, in the direction of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, lies a neighborhood with pedestrian areas full of cafes and small restaurants called “Monti“. This neighborhood is a bit off the beaten track and quieter than the historic center.
Here you will surely find a place to sit and more affordable prices.
Let me know your comments on this essential guide to the Colosseum and the Trevi Fountain. If you want to travel Rome like a local, read also these other guides I’ve written: