Our Visit of Rome’s Landmarks (Continued)
By Tommaso Gambino
Today we find ourselves in the very spacious Piazza Navona, built in the 15th century above the Stadio di Domiziano (80 AD). Its original use was dedicated to athletic events and was a gift to the Roman people from their emperor. It’s now surrounded by Renaissance buildings and distinguished by its famous centerpiece, the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi. (Fountain of the Four Rivers). Legend has it that the sculptor, Bernini, designed a look of terror on the face of one of the fountain’s figures – that figure faces an adjacent church that was designed by his rival, Borromini. Thus, from the figure’s expression, it would appear that the church is about to collapse on the fountain. Was this an act inspired by professional jealously?
Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi
The atmosphere is always carnival-like with street hawkers selling many objects of amusement along with artists, singers and musicians rounding out the cast of characters. There are many choices of restaurants, bars, and pastry shops with one of the most famous gelateria, the Tre Scalini being my favorite. This would be a perfect time to enjoy a delicious gelato and take in the on-going spectacle. We now must choose from so many of the landmarks that comprise this area of the Centro Storico. One of the most famous is the Fontana di Trevi and it is not that far away.
Let us quickstep past the imposing Pantheon completed by Emperor Hadrian in 126 AD that now serves as a church. We can briefly take a look at this imposing structure, pay our respects and move on.
Next come the Via del Corso, a shopper’s paradise, and then Via Sabini, which lead finally to the famous fountain, a baroque masterpiece, designed by Nicola Salvi in 1762. It is the largest in the city of its type and size. The original site was as suspected, an ancient Roman water source dating back to 19 BC. The building material, white travertine, is like that used for the Colosseum. The magnificent structure stands at 87 feet tall and approximately 70 feet wide with a spill rate of close to 3,000,000 cubic feet of water daily. As the famous song, Three Coins in a Fountain, recalls, tossing a coin over the shoulder into the fountain’s large pool guarantees your return to Rome. The money collected is donated to Caritas, an aid agency, assisting the homeless.
Fontana di Trevi
Continuing with the theme of goodwill toward others; we shall next visit La Stelletta, a non-profit that assists mentally-challenged students.
Their laboratory is nestled into another ancient piazza of the Centro Storico not far from the Fontana. Here was organized a place for the children as an after-school activity center. All involved pooled their resources, energy and talents in 1985. The children produce ceramic pieces of a high quality and beauty, all by hand. The items are identified by the artisan. Producing these crafts gives the children a feeling of accomplishment and personal self-worth. My favorite among the many is Francesca. Her prodigious artistic production of ceramic pieces keeps me coming back and buying yet another few more to add to my already large collection.
As summer is upon us, I will take this opportunity to wish you all a pleasant summer vacation. I will be back with you in September to continue our odyssey.