Sunday, February 1, 2015

La Fontana delle Anfore

Today's photos:


1. Fountain of the Amphorae in Trastevere.

2. A close-up of one of the drinking fountains.

3. The SPQR symbol means that the fountain was built by the city of Rome.

4. The fountain has a special charm after dark.

5. The piazza in the evening hours.

6. The piazza is being called "the living room of Testaccio.

7. The fountain in its old location before restoration.


The city of Rome today is divided into twenty-two named neighborhoods, the first fourteen of which are called "historic" because they match, more or less, the fourteen regions into which Augustus divided the city in the first century A.D. In 1926 the city government of Rome hired an architect, Pietro Lombardi, to design and build a relatively small drinking fountain in each of the fourteen historic neighborhoods. Each fountain was to be decorated in a way which reflected the nature and history of its neighborhood. Lombardi was not able to complete the job, but he did design and build a fountain for eight of the fourteen neighborhoods.


You can find the full story of these neighborhoods and their fountains in my book: Rome: Sights and Insights, Chapter 17, Rioni e Fontanelle. This post is an update on one of these fountains, La Fontanella delle Amfore (The Fountain of the Amphorae) in the Testaccio neighborhood. What "inspired" me to write this update is the fact that the fountain has recently undergone a dramatic change. Not only was it cleaned and restored to its original beauty, but it was physically moved to a new location in the Testaccio neighborho.


A curiosity


I should point out that it's not quite accurate to say that the fountain was moved to a new location, because it was actually moved back to its original location. The fountain, built with travertine stone in 1927, was first placed in Piazza Testaccio which would seem to be the logical place to put it, in the center of the neighborhood which it represents. For some reason, it was moved in 1935 about four blocks away to Piazza dell'Emporio on the Lungotevere (the riverfront road) just opposite the Sublicio bridge. This proved to be a very unfortunate location for the fountain because the area is a heavy traffic zone and not a very pleasant place for pedestrians.


In any case, the fountain remained in Piazza dell'Emporio for eighty years . . . until last week when it was returned to its original home in Piazza Testaccio. Not only was the fountain beautifully cleaned and restored, but the piazza itself was restyled to enhance its beauty. The pavement of the piazza now boasts the historic and characteristic sampietrini cobblestones and new platani (plane trees) have been planted around the perimeter of the piazza. (In the summer their leaves will provide welcome shade). Very attractive iron benches varnished with wood were added to provide a pleasant place for visitors to lounge about and enjoy the fountain and the neighborhood scene.


To appreciate the decoration of the fountain you must understand that the name of the neighborhood, Testaccio, is derived from the Latin testa (jar, amphora). Located near the former Ripa Grande river port, the area became a storage place for many amphorae containing wine or olive oil shipped to and from Rome on the Tiber river. Over the years so many pieces of broken amphorae were found and discarded in the area that they formed a small hill which still exists today. So this explains the name of the fountain as well as the fact that it is decorated with stone amphorae. Several small drinking fountains (nasoni) are an integral part of the fountain.


The transformation of this piazza is a true example of urban décor and is now being hailed as il salotto testaccino, the living room of Testaccio. I would encourage any visitor to Rome to take the short walk from Trastevere across the Ponte Sublicio to Piazza Testaccio to enjoy this very pleasant piazza and its charming fountain.


In the course of this post I mentioned the Italian words nasoni (drinking fountains) and sampietrini (cobblestones) without any further explanation of the terms. These have their own interesting story which you can find, once again, in Rome: Sights and Insights, this time in Chapter 29, Uniquely Roman.




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