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Secrets of the iconic fountain's past include an architect's revenge on a local barber.

Steven Casale
February 01, 2017

Rome, Italy is undeniably a city steeped in history, with one foot in its ancient past and the other in the modern day. From the Colosseum to the Forum, the glory of the height of the Roman Empire can still be felt. Yet, more recent landmarks draw an equal number of onlookers in a city filled with tourists.

The Trevi Fountain, which was built in the 1700s, is perhaps one of Rome’s most iconic structures. Built on the site of an ancient Roman water source, it is made of the same material (travertine stone) as the Colosseum. It has appeared in films like Fellini’s La Dolce Vita.

The Trevi Fountain serves as a modern marvel that links back to Rome’s fabled past. Here are a few peculiar facts and legends about the fountain.

The fountain site is one of Rome’s oldest water sources.

The Trevi Fountain lies at the convergence of three roads (tre vie, in Italian, from which its name is derived) and is the endpoint of two ancient aqueducts: Aqua Virgo and Acqua Vergine.

Constructed in 19 BC, the aqueducts are said to have been named for a beautiful virgin who led thirsty soldiers to a spring that once existed at the very same spot. The aqueduct provided a vital source of water for the bustling center of Rome and its many public baths.

The original architect died before its completion.

Much like the Sagrada Família church in Barcelona, the original architect of the Trevi Fountain, Nicola Salvi, died before he could ever live to see his plan come to fruition. In 1730, when Pope Clement XII ordered a competition to find an architect for the fountain, Salvi lost to competitor Alessandro Galilei.

However, the citizens of Rome decried the fact that a Florentine had won, and ultimately the project’s commission went to Salvi. Construction began in 1732, and Salvi died in 1751. Following his death, sculptor Pietro Bracci oversaw the progress until its completion in 1762.

The “Ace of Cups" sculpture was built for revenge.

It is said that during the fountain’s construction, a local barber was constantly annoyed by the noise and debris. Day in and day out, he’d pester Salvi with his dismay. Spitefully, Salvi erected the “Ace of Cups” sculpture at the left of the fountain so that the barber would never have a view of the masterpiece once it was completed.

Coins tossed in the fountain go directly to charity.

The 1954 movie Three Coins in the Fountain established the tradition of tossing spare change into the Trevi Fountain. Legend has it that one coin thrown with the right hand over the left shoulder will guarantee you a safe return to Rome in the future, while a second coin will have your return met with romance.

And a third? A Roman wedding. Wishes aside, since 2006, Roman Catholic charity Caritas has sorted through the roughly €3,000 a day and used it for food and social programs worldwide.

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