For recent generations, it was Anita Ekberg who made this fountain famous when she plunged in wearing a strapless black evening dress in Federico Fellini’s classic film La Dolce Vita. Don’t even think about trying it yourself – wading, washing and splashing in fountains are strictly against local by-laws. And unlike the Grand Tourists, you don’t want to drink from it either: channelled from the ancient acqua vergine spring – legend says the source was revealed to the troops of Agrippa by a virgin – the sparkling water of the fountain is full of chlorine (though there’s a chlorine-free spout hidden in a bird-bath-shaped affair at the back of the fountain to the right).
Tucked away in a tiny piazza and almost always surrounded by jostling crowds, the fountain’s stark travertine (cleaned in 2016 in a project sponsored by Fendi) gleams beneath powerful torrents of water and constant camera flashes. It’s a magnificent rococo extravaganza of rearing sea horses, conch-blowing tritons, craggy rocks and flimsy trees, erupting in front of the wall of Palazzo Poli.
Nobody can quite remember when the custom started of tossing coins in to the waters. The fountain is drained every Monday morning and the money goes to the Red Cross. Visit as early or as late as you can to have a chance of avoiding the crowds.