Many of the best things to do on a trip to Rome combine history, creativity, and a little bit of lore. The Eternal City is a place where you can round a corner and find gelaterias, ornate Baroque architecture, and ancient ruins, all residing harmoniously on the same street. The Trevi Fountain, one of Rome’s most famous and impressive landmarks, is tucked away amidst seemingly unremarkable streets—unremarkable for Rome, that is, but lovely nonetheless. Simultaneously a major landmark and “hidden” gem within the city, the Trevi Fountain is an essential stop on most Italy tours, if only as an excuse to make a wish for another trip to Rome.
Where is the Trevi Fountain?
The Trevi Fountain was built on the site of an ancient Roman water source. It lies at the end of the Aqua Virgo aqueduct in the Trevi District, a neighborhood named for the three roads, or tre via, that converge there. Most of the original aqueduct lies underground, but you can actually still see a section of it a few blocks away on Via del Nazareno.
Legend states that Roman soldiers returning from battle were on the brink of death from dehydration before a young girl led them to a source of fresh water. The Romans later returned to the source and built the Aqua Virgo aqueduct to route the water back to Rome, ending at the site of the Trevi Fountain. The story of the soldiers and the girl is depicted in friezes on the fountain.
What is the Trevi Fountain in Rome known for?
The fountain is a stunning example of Baroque sculpture in all its dramatic and detailed glory. It’s made of travertine stone, the same material used to construct the Colosseum, and is nearly 90 feet high and over 160 feet wide. It was designed by architect Nicola Salvi based on the theme “taming of the waters,” though construction of the fountain wasn’t completed until after Salvi’s death.
The Trevi Fountain has been depicted in films such as La Dolce Vita and Roman Holiday, but its most popular lore surrounds the practice of tossing coins into the fountain. Throwing one coin into the fountain is said to ensure a safe return trip to Rome. If you throw in two coins, you’ll purportedly find love, and three coins guarantee a Roman wedding. According to the lore, coins should be tossed from your right hand over your left shoulder with your back facing the fountain—consequently making your coin toss the perfect opportunity for a photo!
Trevi Fountain facts you may not know
The fountain is an impressive sight even if you don’t know anything about it, but there are some facts about the Trevi Fountain that make it an even more compelling stop on your tour of Italy.
- The coins tossed into the fountain go to charity. Around 3000 Euros are thrown into the Trevi Fountain each day. The coins are collected and donated to the locally-run charity Caritas, which funds social programs and helps feed the hungry.
- Oceanus, not Neptune, is depicted in the center of the fountain. You may see the figure riding a seahorse-drawn chariot in the center of the fountain and assume it to be the Roman god of the sea, Neptune (known as Poseidon in Greek mythology), but the statue actually represents Oceanus, a Titan and father of the river gods. You can tell that it’s Oceanus because he’s flanked by two mermen, known as Tritons.
- There’s an archeological site under the fountain. The Vicus Caprarius, or City of Water, is an ancient Roman residential complex that lies beneath the Trevi Fountain and its surrounding area. The site was discovered in the late 1990s, and for a handful of Euros, you can tour the ancient streets and homes. In addition to the architectural ruins, you’ll find pottery, artwork, coins, and even flowing water fed by the Aqua Virgo aqueduct.
- Part of the fountain was added as the result of a feud. When the fountain was still under construction, there was allegedly a barber working nearby who constantly complained to Salvi that the construction was hurting his business. He annoyed the architect so much that before Salvi finished the fountain, he added a piece resembling the ace of cups from the popular card game Scopa. Throwing down the ace of cups in Scopa is akin to declaring “checkmate” in chess, and when the fountain was completed, the ace of cups blocked the barbershop from the view of the monument’s many visitors.
- Nicola Salvi wasn’t supposed to design the fountain. In 1730, Pope Clement XII held a contest to determine who would design the fountain. Salvi initially lost to architect Alessandro Galilei (a relative of famed astronomer Galileo). When the Roman people discovered that Galilei, a Florentine, had won, however, they protested until the Pope was forced to choose Roman-born Salvi instead.
What should you know before visiting the Trevi Fountain in Rome?
Don’t drink the water. It’s true that the Trevi Fountain was once a source of drinking water for Roman citizens, but that doesn’t mean you should start guzzling from it today. The water in the fountain is recycled, which is a good thing considering over 20 million gallons of water flow through the Trevi Fountain each day. There are plenty of other fountains nearby with free, potable water, including some fed from the same water source as the original Aqua Virgo aqueduct. You’ll find one of these drinking fountains, known as nasoni, on the right-hand side if you’re facing the Trevi Fountain.
Don’t try to go swimming. It may be tempting to try to recreate Anita Ekberg’s iconic scene from La Dolce Vita, but it’s against the law to swim or bathe in the Trevi Fountain. Police act quickly to prevent tourists from climbing in, and you could be charged with a hefty fine—plus, you could accidentally damage the fountain, so it’s best to keep both feet on dry land.
Later is better if you want to avoid crowds. The fountain is visited by tens of thousands of people every day—averaging over a thousand visitors per hour. It’s a huge monument, so you most likely won’t have trouble seeing it, but you might have to fight your way through the crowd to toss in your coins and snap the perfect photo (beware of pickpockets).
It tends to be busiest from noon until around 7 p.m., and it gets cleaned in the mornings (generally between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. on weekdays). The best time to visit is at night when there are fewer people around and the fountain is lit up—it’s a magical sight. “I would visit the Trevi Fountain late at night,” said staffer Lara. “Not only is it quieter and surrounded by fewer people, but watching the fountain lit up against the night sky is a moment you won’t forget.” If you want to see how busy the area is before heading out, check out this live webcam feed of the fountain.
What are some of the best things to do around the Trevi Fountain in Rome?
The entire Trevi Fountain location may feel choked with tourists (and tourist traps), but there are plenty of hidden gems to discover in the area. Here are some of the best things to do around Trevi Fountain Plaza, including some of the best places to eat in Rome.
Visit the Spanish Steps. If you’re not finished sightseeing, head to the nearby Spanish Steps, located a short ten-minute walk north of the Trevi Fountain. They were built as a gift to the city of Rome from France in the 1720s, and you’ll find one of the best photo ops in the city from atop the staircase.
Grab a gelato from Giolitti. One of the oldest gelaterias in Rome, Giolitti was founded in 1890 and is still run by the Giolitti family. It’s a bit pricier than some of its competitors, but it’s worth it for the excellent quality and variety of flavors—try the zabaione, a marsala wine-flavored custard that tastes similar to eggnog, or the crowd-pleasing dark chocolate cioccolato fondente. “Giolitti is the place to go for gelato,” said staffer Melissa. “Try some flavors before you buy a cone!”
If the lines at Giolitti are too long for you, check out nearby Il Gelato di San Crispino instead. The shop was featured in the book and film Eat, Pray, Love and lives up to the hype. Just don’t ask for a cone—their gelato is only served in cups so that nothing detracts from its delicate flavors. Regardless of which place you choose, a stop for gelato is one of the best things to do around the Trevi Fountain—or anywhere—on a guided trip to Italy.
Enjoy the pasta at Colline Emiliane. Rather than classic Roman dishes, you’ll find traditional Emilia Romagna fare at Colline Emiliane. If you’re looking for a hearty, hand-rolled pasta dinner after tossing a few coins into the fountain, this is where you want to be. Their tagliatelle bolognese is their most popular dish, but the tortellini in brodo is equally comforting.
Try the pizza at Piccolo Buco. Piccolo Buco, literally “little hole,” is a tiny spot just steps away from the Trevi Fountain. The owner was born and raised in the Trevi neighborhood and makes some of the best pizza in Rome that also happens to be very affordable. The petite pizzeria fills up quickly, but they accept reservations during lunch hours.
Head to Cafe Vitti dal 1898 for breakfast or an afternoon espresso. Cafe Vitti dal 1898, which is a restaurant, bar, cafe, and gelateria in one, is just a ten-minute walk from the Trevi Fountain. Stop in for a breakfast pastry and a cappuccino on your way to the fountain, sip an afternoon espresso at the chef’s counter, or enjoy an aperitivo or traditional Roman fare like cacio e pepe or carbonara on the patio. Anthony Bourdain even enjoyed an espresso here on his show The Layover.
Pick up picnic ingredients from Volpetti. Specializing in cured meats and cheeses, Volpetti dal 1870 is a historic grocery store just ten minutes from the fountain. It’s the perfect place to grab a few picnic ingredients—or a bottle of wine for later.
1. Rome: The City Experience
Why you should book this tour: This seven-day tour is one of the best ways to get to know the Eternal City. After spending your days exploring the city and dining like a local, we can guarantee you’re going to want to toss a coin in the Trevi Fountain to ensure a return trip.
2. Venice, Florence & Rome
Why you should book this tour: This 12-day tour will show you the best of these three incredible Italian cities and still leave you with ample time to toss a coin (or three) in the Trevi Fountain.
3. Grand Tour of Italy
Why you should book this tour: This is an incredible Italian tour that takes you through large cities, quaint towns, and picturesque countryside. You’ll get to see Italy from all its sun-drenched angles and still have two full days in Rome to make as many wishes as you desire in the Trevi Fountain.
4. A Week in Italy: Naples, Sorrento & Rome
Why you should book this tour: This is the perfect tour for anyone craving sunny coastlines and rustic cuisine. End your trip with a full day in Rome or extend your trip to enjoy even more free time in the city—including plenty of opportunities to visit the fountain.
5. A Week in Italy: Venice, Florence & Rome
Why you should book this tour: If you want to see three of Italy’s most iconic cities in the span of a week, check out this tour. You’ll have three days in Rome to fill with all the exploring and wish-making you desire.