In 19 BC, with the help of a vestal virgin, a source of pure water was located near the ancient city (13 km or 8 miles). The aqueduct then served Rome for centuries before the Goths besieged and destroyed it in the 537/38 A.D.
More than a mellenium later, the Trevi was erected on the same spot, in all its Baroque glory. The year was 1762. Catherine II had just become Empress of Russia, Britain was at war with Spain.
The fountain is a collaboration that took place over many generations, starting with Pope Urban VIII and Bernini in 1629; passing on to Salvi and Pope Clement the XII in 1730; and including Bracci's Oceanus (god of all waters), placed in the central niche in 1762.
The main figure in the fountain is Neptune, god of the sea. Two horses are also depicted: one calm, one rebellious. The horses are said to represent the unconquerable and unpredictable nature of the sea. Interesting homage, especially considering that the sea coast is a good 1.5 hours away by coach.
It is said that if you throw a coin into the fountain you will return to Rome. Lots of people are willing to take the gamble... Apparently about 3,000 Euros are thrown into the fountain each day (with proceeds going to feed Romes' needy). Be careful though, 3 coins can bring either divorce or marriage.
I can almost understand the impulse to go diving in the waters, like the young man caught by the camera on the National Post site. But several years ago someone threw a bucket of red paint into the fountain and turned the waters scarlet. Very disturbing, visually, to see the blood-red colour against the bone-white of the fountain. Thankfully no permanent damage was done. What madness possesses people to try to destroy works of beauty and art?
Flickr has hundreds, if not thousands of travelers' photos of this landmark. The views of the fountain by night are haunting.