Rome Sights

Fontana della Barcaccia (Leaky Boat Fountain)

  • Fountain

Published 10/27/2015

Fodor's Review

At the center of Piazza di Spagna and at the bottom of the Spanish Steps, this curious, half-sunken boat gently spills out water rather than cascading it dramatically; it may have been designed that way to make the most of the area's low water pressure. It was thanks to the Barberini pope Urban VIII, who commissioned the fountain, that there was any water at all in this area, which was becoming increasingly built up during the 17th century. He restored one of the ancient Roman aqueducts that once channeled water here. The bees and suns on the boat constitute the Barberini motif. Some insist that the Berninis (Pietro and his more famous son Gian Lorenzo) intended the fountain to be a reminder that this part of town was often flooded by the Tiber; others claim that it represents the Ship of the Church; and still others think that it marks the presumed site of the emperor Domitian's water stadium in which sea battles were reenacted in the glory days of the Roman Empire. Restoration of the fountain, begun in October 2013, is expected to finish by summer 2014; until then, the fountain is covered in scaffolding.

Sight Information


Piazza di Spagna, Rome, Latium, 00187, Italy

Published 10/27/2015


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