unviersità la sapienza

The University city of La Sapienza in Rome

The University city of La Sapienza in Rome was built, following’s Mussolini’s orders, between 1932 and 1935, under the direction of architect Marcello Piacentini.

The University city of La Sapienza in Rome - SLOGANS

Istituto LUCE propaganda slogans for the announcement of the University City of La Sapienza project.
1st) With this studies center Rome will have the greatest University of the world. 2nd) 12 buildings covering an area of 210 square meters, 63.800 dedicated to squares and roads, the main square will be as big as Piazza Navona. 3rd) The Rectorate building will be 52 meters high, the main lecture hall will seat 3000 people. 4th) Bricks, travertine, stones and marbles will be the main materials used.

The University city of La Sapienza in Rome is a great example of rationalist architecture. In the late 20’s and early 30’s, in fact, the rationalism movement supporters had been attacking the old architect’s generation, proposing their new architectural ideals to support the fascist revolution in the “Rational architecture manifesto”, submitted to Mussolini in 1931. In the same year the architects’ union founded R.A.M.I. (Raggruppamento Architetti Moderni Italiani – Modern Italian Architects Group).

The University city of La Sapienza in Rome - MUSSOLINI VISITS

La Sapienza: Mussolini visits the construction site of the future University city of Rome.

Despite the fiery debates which ensued, the plans for the University city of La Sapienza in Rome were grounded in a spirit of compromise. Architect Piacentini’s idea was to prefere young professionals, with the exception of two seniors, himself and architect Arnaldo Foschini, the outgoing director of “Architettura”, the National Fascist Union of Architects magazine; putting together a team that will get its best from the convergence of different experiences and positions.

The University city of La Sapienza in Rome - MODEL

The original model of the University city of La Sapienza. The tallest building, the Rectorate, will be shortened during the construction.

From Turin and Milan came Giuseppe Pagano, director of “Casabella” magazine, and Gio Ponti, director of “Domus” magazine, from Florence came Giovanni Michelucci, from Rome came Pietro Aschieri, Giuseppe Capponi and Gaetano Minnucci of M.I.A.R. (Movimento Italiano per l’Architettura Razionale – Italian Movement for Rationalist Architecture), and Gaetano Rapisardi.

After and extensive examination of each architect skills and experiences, Piacentini assigned the design of the buildings: the monumental entrance, Hygiene and Orthopedics to Foschini; Physics to Pagano; Chemistry to Aschieri; Mathematics to Gio Ponti; Biology, Geology and Mineralogy to Michelucci; Law and Political Sciences, Arts and Philosophy to Rapisardi; Botanic to Capponi.

The University city of La Sapienza in Rome - MATHS AND CHEMISTRY

La Sapienza, Rome – Mathematics and Chemistry buildings plans.

He chose for himself the most representative building: the great Rectorate, right in the heart of the La Sapienza University city.

The University city of La Sapienza in Rome - MAIN ENTRANCE

The main entrance to the University City of La Sapienza in Rome

The University city of La Sapienza in Rome La Sapienza rettorato, progetto originale

The original version of the Rectorate had a 52 meters tall main building.

The Dopolavoro (Recreational Association) and Circolo Littorio soon followed, executed by Minnucci, who alongside with Eugenio Montuori also designed the Barracks for the “Benito Mussolini” University Legion, and the Students’ House by Giorgio Calza Bini, Francesco Fariello and Saverio Muratori.

The University city of La Sapienza in Rome - BARRACKS

The “Casermetta Universitaria”, barracks for the University students military legions.

Piacentini’s masterplan for the University city of La Sapienza in Rome intended to include “very Roman” buildings made of bricks and travertine, but the young designers used these materials primarily as final cladding upon structures built instead with the latest technologies but stripped of ornament in an ancient Roman interpretation of international Modernism. Piacentini also strictly requested that architects gave up to the principles of originality and fashionable trends, but despite his rules some buildings appear innovative, albeit within limits specified by general criteria. This is certainly the case with Gio Ponti’s Mathematics building, with its hidden curves of the front façade, in line with those of the other buildings in the central square, from which it distinguished itself thanks to a decorated glass wall, sadly destroyed during the war.

The University city of La Sapienza in Rome - MATHEMATICS

Mathematics building by Architect Gio Ponti.

Another example of peculiar architecture is the Physics building, with its external parts in contrast with the interiors. Capponi’s building is a full expression of Italian architectonic rationalism thanks to its great transparencies, creating a communication between the interior and exterior.

Several buildings are decorated with simple frescoes and statues, both in interior and exterior spaces, in accordance with a precise decorative programme which involved some reknown artists like Mario Sironi, Arturo Martini, Mirko Basaldella, Fausto Melotti, Corrado Vigni and Alfredo Biagini.

The University city of La Sapienza in Rome

La Sapienza in Rome: Main square, the iconic Minerva statue, the goddess of Wisdom.

Inaugurated on 31st October 1935, the University City of La Sapienza in Rome is a “place of knowledge”, steeped in the full expression of the relationship between architecture and art. The complex stands in contrast to the future EUR district, built several years later, as La Sapienza represents Fascist modernism yet, unike the EUR, it still retains a human sense of scale.

The University city of La Sapienza in Rome

Benito Mussolini makes a speech during the opening cerimony before the Rectorate building.

The official website of The University city of La Sapienza in Rome

non-catholic cemetery Emelyn Story

The Non-Catholic Cemetery of the Pyramid in Rome

The Non-Catholic Cemetery of the Pyramid in Rome lays under the shadow of the famous Caius Cestius Pyramid, where Ostiense district leans towards the Aventine hill and merges with Testaccio.

The non-catholic cemetery origins are sadly unknown; we have no official chronicles about non-catholic burial areas before the Vatican chose this area near the Pyramid. Traditionally though, foreigners were usually buried at the “Muro torto” (Crooked wall), alongside with prostitutes, executed criminals, mummers and random outcasts.

The first official name buried in this area dates to 1738: a 25 years old Oxford student named Langton.

The first official document mentioning the non-catholic cemetery of Rome seems to be the famous 1748 Nolli and Piranesi Roma map, where our cemetery can be spotted in an area called “Roman people meadows”. At that time, the Testaccio and Ostiense area, was in fact real countryside within the walls, the so called “Agro romano” made of meadows, pastures, vineyards and suburban inns and taverns loved by Romans and especially popular during the festivities.


The pyramid and the non-catholic cemetery of Rome, Testaccio.

Today’s perimeter of the Non-Catholic Cemetery of Rome was developed in linear patches along time by the Prussian minister to the Holy See. The whole area in fact is divided into five chronological zones: Ancient, Old, First, Second and the Third, still active today. This development created an imaginary timeline that can be explored to feel the change in styles and the different approaches to death along centuries.

In the 1921 official cemetery statute it is claimed that this area “grants the burial to foreign citizens belonging to protestant or Greek-scismatic faith”, today the cemetery is simply open to any non-catholic.

The first years of the non-catholic cemetery of Rome were quite troubled. It was not uncommon, for the most intolerant Christians, to vandalize the non-catholic tombs. The burials, in fact, had to take place after sunset, with a low profile, to avoid being spotted and bullied by the most fervid Romans. It did not help that until 1900 the cemetery was not fully fenced.

Another issue of the non-catholic burials was the ban on crosses or epitaphs mentioning the eternal gratitude or the love of God, a ban that lasted until 1870. Vatican authorities in fact, did not believe that God would have saved the soul of those who died following any other faith but the Roman-Catholic one.

In 1869 a Papal commission, appointed with the task to check and approve every funeral inscription request, even rejected “Hier ruht in Gott(Here rests in God) and “God is Love”. This practice stopped after 1870, with the end of the Papal State and the beginning of the new Italian kingdom.

Today we can find every sort of inscriptions: from film quotes to deep philosophical thoughts, until the simple and witty: “Novità?” (“Any news?”), but a simple walk along the cemetery walkways shows an even more peculiar “epitaph”: a nazi machine gun sign, a relic of the famous Porta S.Paolo battle. After the armistice partisans troops were hiding in the non-catholic cemetery and nazi troops fought here against them.

Any news?

Umberto Missori’s tomb: “Any news?”

The majority of burials in the non-catholic cemetery of Rome belongs to Germans and English citizens; but there are also many Americans, Scandinavians, Russians and Greeks; even some Chinese and some from Arabic or Middle-Eastern countries, like Mohammed Hossein Naghdi, leader of the Iranian resistance killed in Rome in 1993.

There are also some Italians buried here, mostly because they were relatives of foreigners already resting in the non-catholic cemetery, but there are also some exceptions like Carlo Emilio Gadda, a famous XX century Italian poet and writer. It was buried here instead than in Milan, following Rome’s mayor, Francesco Rutelli’s will.

But the non-catholic cemetery is mostly renowned for the burials of foreign celebrities that chose to spend some time in Rome, the jewel of any “Grand Tour”, the traditional IX century trip of Europe (mostly France and Italy) undertaken by upper class European young men at the coming of age as an educational rite of passage. Whatever the Tour route was, Rome could never be missed, it was the Mecca of artists as Henry James said, or “the best cultural gathering of Europe” quoting Stendhal and “The only place where he really understood what it meant to be a man” according to Goethe’s words.

Painters, sculptors, actors, dancers, poets and writers rest in great numbers under the iconic cypress trees near the Pyramid. Sometimes the dead are not famous by themselves, their relatives are, like August, a simple accountant but also Goethe’s son, Boecklin’s daughter and Tolstoj’s daughter and nephew.

The two most famous celebrities of the non-catholic cemetery of Rome are certainly John Keats and Percy Bysse Shelley, two of the main English romantic poets.

La tomba di John Keats

John Keats grave in the non-catholic cemetery of Rome


tomba di Percy Bysse Shelley

Percy Bysse Shelley grave in the non-catholic cemetery of Rome

During a visit to this extraordinary cemetery it is also possible to salute many pioneers of progress and history: scientists, explorers, amazing archaeologists (The greatest expert of Roman civilization, Krautheimer and Mrs Schliemann, Troy’s discoverer wife, are both buried here) architects, great doctors, politicians and soldiers fighting for the Italian unification wars.

Some of the graves are embellished by gorgeous artworks like the well-known “Angel of Grief” by William Wetmore Story, sculpted to remember his wife Emelyn. She died in 1893 and two years later William joined her rest under the angel wings.

But the non-catholic cemetery of Rome is much more than just the aeternal resting place of many people, it also houses one of Rome main cat sanctuaries, The “Gatti della Piramide” (Pyramid’s cats). It’s not uncommon to spot some peaceful little feline enjoying the sun or happily napping on a cozy tombstone. The cat colony is mantained entirely by volounteers and all the cats are up for adoption, online with a donation but even in real life. The cats make a stroll under the pyramid shadow even more relaxing and interesting.


gatto tomba

One of the many cats of the non-catholic cemetery of Rome

Through the centuries and through the stories, despite this place’s nature, there still is a lot of life under the shadow of the Pyramid. 300 years of amazing characters and stories will be revealed to whoever wants to take a stroll in this unique corner of Rome. 300 years of melting pot, maybe this is Europe at its core. The foreigners resting here may be saddened at the thought that the majority of people ignore this place, they loved this city so much they wished they stayed here forever, and for many of them, this whish was fulfilled.

The official non-catholic cemetery of Rome website can be found here.

progetto EUR E42

EUR district and the dream of World’s Fair.

EUR district: a journey from World Fair to a Business district.

Today “Europa” is the official name of the district known as EUR; acronym, as widely known, of “Esposizione Universale Romana”. The real name, the first chosen for this area, was E42, and had to represent the new “ultramodern city” that in 1942 had to host Rome’s World Fair. The chosen date was not a coincidence; it was in fact the 20th anniversary of Mussolini’s March on Rome.

This occasion had already been celebrated in 1932 with a huge exhibition held in Rome’s Palazzo delle Esposizioni and focusing over the “Fascist revolution”, a huge success.

rivoluzione fascista 1932

1932 the “Fascist Revolution” exhibition in the Palazzo delle Esposizioni

The idea to hold a World Fair in Rome was suggested to Mussolini by Giuseppe Bottai, in June 1935. Bottai had just been appointed City Governor. The huge innovation, compared to every other previous world Fair edition, was for the buildings to be real permanent constructions. Until then in fact, every World Fair ever held always had all the pavilions and buildings dismantled when the Fair was over. In the E42 all the buildings instead, had to become the kernel of the new Rome expansion towards the sea.


The first main blueprint of the whole  E42 area, made by the same group of architects that created the “Città Universitaria” (University City), was revised by the group leader, Marcello Piacentini. Planning of each single building instead, will be appointed to various Architects after 4 different public bids starting in 1937.

progetto E42

EUR: One of the first plans for E42

The style, called metaphysical rationalism, as in reference of De Chirico’s paintings, is basically expressing an oversimplified classicism. Although based on modernity, the whole complex is, for obvious propaganda reasons, over rhetorical if compared to other contemporary Italian architecture.

By the beginning of World War II, of the many buildings planned for the EUR, only 2 had been completed. The Ente Eur offices building and the Workers Village, along Via Laurentina. Works in progress were: The “Palazzo dei Congressi”, the “Palazzo della Civiltà italiana”, the 4 museums surrounding the Imperial Square.

colosseo quadrato

EUR 1940: the “Palazzo della Civiltà italiana” just before the interruption.

Also foundations had been laid for the theater, the church, the post office and the two buildings of the exedra, the INA and INPS one. Most of the main structures of the Underground stations had also already been completed, they had to connect the World Fair with the main Termini Station, but the tunnels were just used during the war as bomb shelters.

Construction works, interrupted by the war, restarted only a few years after the war was over. 1950 saw the completion of Via Cristoforo Colombo, formerly known as Via dell’Impero.

EUR: Interrupted works are finally completed


1951 saw the completion of the other buildings. In 1955  a new EUR blueprint was made, and then, with a fully functional Underground connection, Municipality offices, corporations and ministries arrived in the district and were followed by private companies offices. With the arrival of white collars new shops started to open up for business and in the meantime some areas became residential zones.

This transitional phase into a Business District abandoned completely the rationalism style and followed instead the new “international style” to stress the modernization process of a new society.

EUR: The palazzo della civiltà italiana

The last big phase of development of the EUR happened in 1960 for the XVII Olympic Games. The new EUR in fact was chosen to host the new Sport palace, the Velodrome and the Roses swimming pool. In these years many other areas were completed, together with the artificial lake.


Rome’s EUR Olympic Velodrome. Dismantled in 2008.

More infos on FENDI’s new EUR project can be found here.

This article is also available in Italian.

This article is offered by Veni Vidi Visit, please check our amazing not so touristy Rome Free Walking Tour!

Garbatella case rapide

Garbatella – Part 1

Garbatella is an area of the Ostiense neighborhood belonging to the VIII district of Rome. Built in about 20 years, starting from the area of St.Paul’s hills, despite seeming quite unified, Garbatella went through many different construction phases, taking shape as a real laboratory of styles and types.

Garbatella’s different groups of buildings are the result of the different connections of the Italian society and their changes according to the variety of social groups they were built for.

Garbatella bucato

Laundry in Garbatella – Photo by Maria Freria Dominguez

Even if, in the past, the district went through hard times during which it had a bad reputation, it is nowadays one of the liveliest neighborhoods of Rome, status that was officially confirmed when it obtained the privilege of being called “Rione”one of the historical regions Rome is traditionally divided into. Thanks to this title Garbatella is now widely recognized for its cultural importance and historical relevance.

The origin of the name Garbatella is still under discussion. According to a widespread hypothesis, the neighborhood is named after a nice innkeeper named Carlotta (or Maria). She was so beloved by the travelers passing by her inn that everybody started to call her “garbata ostella”, the “polite innkeeper”, later shortened in “garbatella”.

garbatella ostessa

Garbatella’s symbol in Piazza Bonomelli – Photo by Laura Antonucci

The image of this mythical woman can be seen today on the facade of a building in piazza Geremia Bonomelli.

A second hypothesis regarding the origins of the name Garbatella refers instead to a peculiar type of wine cultivation technique called “barbata” (bearded) or “garbata” (polite) in which the vines are supported by maple or elm trees. This type of cultivation technique was common in the lands called “Tenuta dei 12 cancelli”, a local vineyard that in XIX century belonged to Monsignor Nicholas Maria Nicolai, famed agricultural scientist and intellectual, General Commissioner of the Apostolic Chamber, President of the Lincei Academy and President of the Pontifical Roman Academy of Archaeology.

Garbatella, name by which the area was called way before the district construction begun, was not the only one taken into account. In the official first plan, the district had to host the workers of the nearby Ostiense industrial area, so somebody proposed to call it “Concordia”, the name of the first garden-working class suburb built in 1920 around Piazza Brin. In the fascist period instead, they thought about drawing inspiration from classical historical sources: “Remuria”, the other potential name of Garbatella, was the mythical city Remus wanted to build on the next hill towards the sea, opposed to the Palatine hill, his brother’s Romulus choice (historians will later identify this area on the Aventine hill).

garbatella lotto piazza brin

Lotto in Piazza Brin – Photo by Maria Freria Dominguez

Let’s begin our journey from the very birthplace of the area, Piazza Brin,where we immediately notice the pleasant balance between green areas and buildings; it’s one of the highest percentages in Italy during that period. Together with the extreme richness in the details (notice the beautiful gargoyles and the unique chimneys), despite being outside the ancient Aurelian city walls, we find an headless Roman marble statue, proof that in ancient times this area was a burial ground. Together with the small votive shrine built during the war by the inhabitants of this “lotto” hoping to survive the bombings, another interesting artifact of this piazza is the memorial marble plaque celebrating the laying of the first stone of the district, which dates back to 1920.

garbatella - fondazione

Garbatella’s first foundation stone – Photo by Maria Freira Dominguez

In this photo, together with the royal presence of King Victor Emmanuel the III, the ceremony is attended by the IACP (Independent Public Housing Institute) and the SMIR (Independent Authority for the Maritime and Industrial development of Rome). There is no trace of city Mayor Nathan, to which the historically dominant leftist sentiment of the area would like to assign the district’s foundation. Even though this leftist administration had a great role fighting the abusive urban speculation and stressing the industrial spirit of the area, there are no historical proofs of direct connections between the foundation of Garbatella and the leftist “People’s Block Party“ who only ruled the city until 1913.

IACP was founded in 1903, thanks to Deputy Luigi Luzzati’s will. His idea was to achieve cheap working-class housings in the urban area of Rome; IACP begun immediately to alleviate the housing crisis in Rome through the construction of the interesting Flaminio and San Saba neighborhoods.

SMIR instead was born in 1902 and despite its crucial actions aiming to improve the southern area of Rome, had a short and contradictory life, being already dismissed in 1923. SMIR was the idea of Paolo Orlando, technocrat of Sicilian origin, member of the anti-Bolshevik association, opposition advisor during the rule of Mayor Nathan and promoter of the construction of Ostia harbor. After getting an Engineering degree at Milan’s Politecnico he came to Rome to pursue his political career. Here Orlando immediately begun working on his big plan for the industrial-commercial and maritime development of Rome.

garbatella foto d'epoca

Garbatella – Aerial photograph.

In 1880 Paolo Orlando started a national committee focused to build a huge basin linking the area to the seaside. It would have been equipped with big seaports and connected to the railway network. It was to become the ultimate step to improve the industrial development of the Ostiense area.

This project will never be fulfilled because the planned resources will be redirected to other public works in Northern Italy. Despite the failure of the bigger project Paolo Orlando enrolled, since 1910, IACP and, few years later, architects Gustavo Giovannoni and Marcello Piacentini, who took charge of the district plans.

Going through via Cialdi we get to via di Sant’Adautto. Here we meet the first nucleus of “quick houses”, those of the “Lotti VI and VII” built in 1923.

Garbatella case rapide

Garbatella, case rapide (quick housing) – Photo by Maria Freria Dominguez

The buildings look really nice thanks to their tininess and peaceful isolation even if they lack the nice aesthetical details of the houses in the previous lotti. The reason of this difference is the urgent need to create quick and cheap dwellings for the population. The total isolation of this group of houses, close among themselves and located on the top of a small hill, was a comeback of the iconic borgata (working-class suburb), a place of segregation and physical isolation of the unwanted members of the lowest class.

After this period a new progressive social diversification of this area begins; Garbatella will start to host diverse families from different backgrounds evicted by the huge demolition projects that were taking place all over Rome. The first relocated Romans that arrived here were those displaced from the areas of the Theater of Marcellus, the Salita del Grillo and Piazza Montanara, followed in 1929 by those living in the so called “Abissinian villages” of Milvian bridge and Portonaccio. These villages were basically shanty towns lacking proper sanitation, water supply, electricity, streets and other basic human necessities. They were named “Abissinian villages” because they looked like the poor towns of the African colonies of the Italian Empire.

This “quick houses” experience will be repeated in Piazza Masdea and in 1925 in via Magnaghi when, following the lifting of controlled house rental prices in the city center, a huge number of freshly evicted families start to move towards this area looking for a dwelling.

garbatella roma commodilla serafini

Garbatella, Parco Serafini, location of the Catacombs of Commodilla.

Now we are going into Commodilla’s Park, built over the catacombs bearing the same name. These catacombs were in use from the IV until the IX century and then forgotten for centuries. They were rediscovered only 600 years later.

This underground burial complex was built, as it was common, nearby the remains of one of the many “pozzolana” (volcanic ash) quarries of the city and is named after the landlady that donated this piece of land to Christians in order to create a cemetery.

The most relevant burials we find here are those belonging to the Saints Felice and Adautto, both martyrs under the rule of Emperor Diocletian. Notice that Adautto is not a common Roman name, “adauctus” just means “added” in Latin and, according to VII century historian, it refers to a Christian bystander who offered himself voluntarily for martyrdom.

The galleries of this cemetery offer less artworks if compared to the most famous underground cemeteries in Rome; although they host one of the most important inscriptions in Italy. The graffiti inscription in one of the underground cemetery chapels “non dicere ille secrita a bboce” (don’t speak these secrets aloud), dated between the VI and XI century, is so distant from standard Latin that can be considered the oldest example of “vulgar” Italian language.

Lotto 8

Lotto 8 – Photo by Maria Freria Dominguez

Let’s pass through the gate belonging to the “Nicolai Vineyard and” and we go along via della Garbatella, turning left in via Fincati where we stop at the beautiful “Lotto 8”one of the most profusely decorated. This peculiar group of buildings, gathered around a courtyard, was built by architect Plinio Marconi, who also built Lotto 4 and “Dwelling 13” of the “Model Houses” we’ll discuss in the next Garbatella article. The richness and complexity of the broadly inspired decorations imply that these buildings were intended for richer families from a higher social level capable of redeeming the house in a short time.

garbatella lotto 8

Lotto 8 – Photo by Maria Freria Dominguez

The population density of this building, made between 1923 and 1926, is higher than any house previously built in the district. This changing foreshadows the new district urbanization and every future urban plan of Rome. Starting in 1927, low-density council housing won’t be considered profitable anymore even in cheap land areas; small villas and single houses were in fact more expensive if compared to intensive housing policies.

It was the premature beginning of the end of that positive experience of low-density quality dwellings that could have been the modern alternative to the XIX century “block housing” intensive construction model.


If interested to have a private or group tour of Garbatella, feel free to get in touch with us!

This article is offered by Veni Vidi Visit, please check our amazing not so touristy Rome Free Walking Tour!


Piazza Barberini - Barberini square

Piazza Barberini

Piazza Barberini, as the name says, is deeply connected to the Barberini family. A family that will change forever the appearence of this area.


Piazza Barberini gets its name from the powerful noble Barberini family, but before they transformed the square into an addition to their palace, this place was named “piazza Grimana” from Cardinal Grimani, who had a vineyard with a small house at the corner of this square, right where Via Veneto begins.

Piazza Barberini in 1847

Piazza Barberini in 1847

Ground level of Piazza Barberini is nowadays the result of many earth fillings that took places along centuries to fill up what used to be a deep valley between the Pincio Hill and the Quirinale hill.

This area was populated since the first centuries of the roman empire because it was considered very healthy and mosquitoes-free, but it will be deeply urbanized only in 1600 with the Barberini family. They begun the transformations of this area building an elm bordered road leading to the cappuccini monks monastery built by Cardinal Antonio, the brother of Pope Urbano VIII Barberini. They even commissioned the bees fountain and the merman fountain but above all they begun the construction of their wonderful family palace, Palazzo Barberini.

Despite all these remarkable additions to Piazza Barberini, this area remains rather suburban and countryside-like until half of the 1800, when its appearance will be deeply transformed with the opening of via Veneto and then via Regina Elena (nowadays called via Barberini) in 1926, connecting Termini central station with the city center. Because of this road, the Barberini Theater, built by architect Pietro da Cortona, was completely demolished, togheter with a full block of charming buildings from the 1600.

Piazza Barberini 1850 and today.

Piazza Barberini 1850 and today.

Since 1645 the wonderful merman fountain pours its clangorous water gushes right in the heart of Piazza Barberini. This wonderful fountain was built by Gian Lorenzo Bernini to celebrate the anniversary of the election of Pope Urban VIII Barberini, event that happened 20 years before the fountain was completed. The fountain, being a celebrative monument, gave immediately a strong scenic sense to the whole square, becoming a beacon for people coming from the city center.

The merman fountain is a wonderful artwork mixing allegoric decorations and natural elements: from a shallow basin four big dolphins with the barberini bees (the bees are the family crest of the Barberini family) use their tails to lift up a big seashell above which there is a crouching merman. The merman, blowing in the trumpet, creates a tall water gush towards the sky.

Piazza Barberini

Piazza Barberini in 1862

This artwork is deeply inspired to Ovid’s metamorphosis 1st book, according to which before the rebirth of mankind the world will have 4 ages in which calm will be brought back to the world by the gods. The merman Tritone, blowing the trumpet, will fill with sound the surrounding lands, calling back the world to order and peace.

Bernini took inspiration from this story and created a similar strong mythological figure to be the herald of the new golden age promoted by pope Urban VIII Barberini.

Pope Urban VIII Barberini

Pope Urban VIII Barberini

Leaving the Merman fountain and Piazza Barberini behind, and going up along via delle Quattro Fontane we quickly reach the big gates of Palazzo Barberini’s entrance.


This article is offered by Veni Vidi Vist, please check our amazing not so touristy Rome’s Free Walking Tour!