I once punched a kid in the face in Rome.
I was working as a tour leader and guiding a group through the sites of Rome (there are many! Such a beautiful city!), and we had come to the Trevi Fountain.
Side note: You know how you’re supposed to stand with your back to the fountain, and hold coins (one coin to guarantee you will return to Rome, two coins to guarantee you will return with your true love) in your right hand, throwing them into the fountain over your left shoulder? Well, you are. It’s for charity, though there’s been some talk about changing that lately, so at least for now it’s for a good cause. Anyway, the first time I came to Rome I wanted to throw in two coins (cause, you know. True love. Why not?) but at the time the fountain was under restoration, so it was walled in by a big see-through plastic screen.
You can probably see where this is going, right?
I threw the coins over my shoulder, but not high enough to clear the screen so they bounced off and hit me in the back of my head.
Rejected! “You will never find true love, you may as well GIVE UP!”
I blame that day for SO many delicious chocolate cakes and bags of crisps… Thank you Rome!
Why yes, I am wearing a pirate hat. Oh, no reason. Just, when in Rome…
Aaaand back to the main story. So we’re standing in front of the Trevi fountain, which really is stunningly beautiful! It was commissioned by the Pope as part of a beautification project of Rome, and the guy given the job of designing the fountain was called Nicola Silva. This was before health & safety-regulations were really a thing, so poor Nicola worked day and night, chipping away at the stone and breathing in the stone dust. The fountain took 30 years to complete (by contrast, the entire Colosseum only took 8 years! Of course, Nicola probably didn’t have the same access to free labor), but Nicola died 19 year in from the damage to his lungs, so another guy who nobody really cares about (though his name was Pannini, which I find funny. Cause it’s like panini. Only with an extra n. Get it? Get it?? Screw you, paninis are delicious and I’m hilarious) finished the job.
The fountain was completed in 1762, BUT, it had replaced a much older fountain, and the story of that takes us back to ancient Roman times.
(But Inga, I want to hear how you punched a kid in the face! WELL I’M GETTING TO IT! Be patient!)
So, a Roman army were returning home after warring abroad, they were hurt and exhausted, having run out of food and water. They were still over 20 kilometers away when they finally collapsed, unable to go any further. But a Vestal Virgin (they were priestesses who had to be virgins or they would be buried alive. No pressure) found them and took pity, so she led them to a spring where they could quench their thirst (good word, quench).
The army was able to complete their trip and made it into the city of Rome, where they told the story to the emperor, Agrippa, who was so inspired that he ordered an aquaduct (a waterway) to be built, to bring water from the spring all the way into the center of Rome, a distance of over 20 km.
And the site where the water finally came out is the same place as the current fountain stands.
Great story, huh? I was an awesome guide. And I am telling this story to my group, standing with my back to the fountain so they can watch it while I talk.
And then it happens.
You see, there are frescoes on the fountain that shows depictions of the things I have just told you on the fountain, on the right is the image of the Vestal Virgin showing the spring to the Roman soldiers, and on the left is the Roman soldier kneeling before the emperor, and I wanted to point these out to my group.
So I turn.
Holding out my hand in anticipation of pointing.
Just as a small kid walks past.
BAM, straight in the face! His nose caught on my ring!!! I started shouting that I’d just punched a kid, my tourist group almost pee’d themselves laughing and the poor kid’s parents looked at me like I was a lunatic!
Well, I had just hit their kid, so, fair enough.
They shooed him off and I panicked for a good ten minutes while my group took their selfies and threw in their coins. By the time they were done I was once again a consummate professional (WAS TOO! Didn’t you see my pirate hat???), so all’s good that ends well.
Anyway, in a bit of poetic justice, another tour guide did the exact same thing to me on another tour, only instead of hitting me in the face he accidentally groped my boob.
Oh, and here’s a couple of other legends about the Trevi Fountain, just for fun.
If you’re standing in front of the fountain, facing it, look over to the right. See that big urn-thing, that’s kind of part of the fountain but not?
The story goes that when the Pope commissioned the fountain, he asked the shop owners around the square to contribute to the building of it. They all agreed (cause in Italy, when the pope asks you to do something, you do it!) except one. One single barber-shop owner held out and refused to pay anything, so the Pope declared that while he didn’t HAVE to pay anything, he also shouldn’t be allowed to benefit from the building. So the urn was created in just that spot, JUST to block out the view of the fountain from the one shop directly behind it. Another story goes that the barber shop owner kept criticizing Nicola Silva, so he put up the urn to shut him up.
Now look up to the windows behind the fountain, on the right. Examine them closely, and you will notice that one of them is a fake! The story is that Nicola Silva (remember him? The guy who designed the fountain?) witnessed a man commit suicide by throwing himself from that very window. The sight caused poor Nicola to have terrible nightmares about his own death, to the point where he was sure he was being haunted by the dead man, so he ordered the window blocked up to try and stop the dreams. The story doesn’t say if it worked or not, but he died shortly after, so probably not…
I can talk about the Trevi Fountain forever (called that because of the three roads that led to the square when the fountain was built. Tre Vie, three roads), but I think this post is long enough.
Enjoy your visit to Rome!