One of the cliches about Rome that’s actually true is that you can be walking down what seems like a perfectly normal street, when you turn a corner and find something that takes your breath away, whether a charming little piazza or something monumental. It happened to me the first time I found the Fontana di Trevi, when I didn’t yet know enough to let the faint sound of gurgling water be a sign.
Just a few steps away from Il Ghetto di Roma and Largo Argentina is this tiny, quiet square, Piazza Mattei, which is home to one of my favorite fountains in all of Rome, la Fontana delle Tartarughe.
The turtles that the fountain is named for were actually added about a hundred years after the fountain was first designed and built, in 1581. The original purpose of this and most of the decorative fountains built in the late Renaissance was actually completely practical — it was the main water supply, direct from the aqueducts, for all the local people! Now it is simply a beautiful little passageway between different neighborhoods.
I might be partial to this little piazza also because at night it comes alive with one of the chicest local bars I got to know in Rome: Bartaruga, another play on the Italian word for “turtle.” Not the loud nightlife of Campo de’ Fiori or Trastevere, but a nice authentic little place to enjoy an evening. I think it was even briefly featured in Woody Allen’s (mediocre) 2011 film, “To Rome with Love.”
Cheesy picture in the window…
Look out for more posts about the many fountains of Rome, coming soon!