All roads may lead to Rome but not all streets in Rome are created equal. In this ancient, convoluted, enchanting, twisted mass of boulevards, tiny lanes and mini piazzas, one could roam around on foot for days and never see the same street twice. Or, in my case, walk in circles for three hours and never find the Fontana di Trevi (Trevi Fountain).
What I did discover, as a result of my terrible sense of direction, is the Eternal City far removed from the throngs of tourists and souvenir trade: I got to see the historic center of Rome the way the Romans do.
Via dei Fori Imperiali, Via Vittorio Veneto, Via Del Corso – these are the iconic Roman boulevards of films like Fellini’s La Dolce Vita and William Wyler’s Roman Holiday – beautiful, grand, and fascinating. But one of my favorite streets in Rome is one you might not find highlighted in all the guidebooks or visitors’ maps…Via Delle Quattro Fontane (The Street of Four Fountains).
Via Delle Quattro Fontane is a rather commonplace and nondescript street at first glance. It begins at the Piazza Barberini – where [mappress mapid=”235″][mappress mapid=”236″]’s Fontana Tritone (Triton) kneels in its center – and ends at the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore (Rome’s largest church after St. Peter’s Basilica). Like a deep-sea traffic cop, Triton faces the direction of busier and more popular thoroughfares that shoot-off this piazza. Don’t let him steer you wrong – hang a left at his elbow and head southwest up the gentle incline to the crest of the hill – that’s were things get interesting.
What you’ll see at the traffic-lighted intersection at the corner of Via Delle Quattro Fontane and Via del Quirinale will knock you socks off. There they sit, one across from the other, “Quattro Fontane”: A group of four late 14th century fountains for which this street was named. The figures were carved into fountains by Domenico Fontana and Pietro da Cortona to represent the Tiber River (Fume di Tevere, Rome), the Arno (Florence), the Goddess Diana (Chastity), and the Goddess Juno (Strength).
To get a better angle for your photographs, wait for the lights to change and step out into the crosswalk at your own risk. Attenzione! You don’t want to get run over by a gelato truck!