The Fontana dell’Acqua Paola (Acqua Paola Fountain) is one of Rome’s most famous sites and has appeared in movies and songs. Also known as Fontanone del Gianicolo (“the big fountain on the Janiculum”), it rises at the top of that hill. It was commissioned by Pope Paul V, born Camillo Borghese, to celebrate the redevelopment of the Aqua Traiana aqueduct, which received water from Lake Bracciano and supplied water to the districts on the right bank of the Tiber. The project’s goal was to serve Trastevere, Borgo and most importantly the Vatican and its wonderful gardens. Work began in 1608, but the fountain – built by Giovanni Fontana and Flaminio Ponzio – was not completed until 1614.
The monumental fountain is made of granite and white and polychrome marbles taken from the ruins of the Roman Forum and of the Temple of Minerva at the Forum of Nerva. The red and gray marble columns, instead, had been part of the Basilica of Saint Peter. The fountain’s design was inspired by ancient arches of triumph, and features five arches with a wide inscription in the middle, surmounted by the papal coat of arms held by two angels, sculpted by Ippolito Buzio. Dragons and heraldic eagles are a recurrent theme throughout the fountain, and symbolize the Borghese family. Towards the end of the 1600s, Carlo Fontana altered the project replacing the five intercolumnar basins with a single, larger one.
The Fontana dell’Acqua Paola supplied Rome’s first hydroelectric power plant since the beginning of the 20th century and until the 1930s. Behind it, there is a small garden that commemorates the larger and verdant one that had been built there in the 1600s, which Pope Alexander VII had made a botanical garden. It is a perfect spot to enjoy a wonderful view over the Eternal City.
Fontana dell’Acqua Paola