The “big noses” of Rome: a heritage to preserve


One of the many peculiarities and beauties of the eternal city are its noses. “Sorry? What are you talking about?” You’re probably wondering, not be aware of having seen them around many times and to have probably also used them with pleasure in the hottest days in and around the city. We are talking of the public drinking fountains in Rome (made of cast iron, around 1,20 m high and with a cylindrical shape) from which gushes always drinking water available to all for free, and whose name comes from the curved shape of the faucet that looks just like a big nose.

Rome is the only city in the world to have fountains made only for the purpose of quenching the thirst of the people and it has been estimated to have about 2,500 of those “noses” scattered throughout the territory. There is a little fountain more or less everywhere, in the streets, in public parks, close to markets or post offices or just along the street of a peripheral neighbourhood: you must have noticed them! Recently a free app was created in partnership with Acea (a multiservice company active in the management and development of networks and services in waterworks, energy and the environment), to pinpoint the “big noses” scattered around the city and, in case of need, to quickly find the closest one.

nasoni

The “nasone” is one of Rome’s symbols; but when did it appear in the city for the first time? The famous “big noses” were realized for the first time in 1874 at the behest of Mayor Luigi Pianciani: the City Council approved the creation of a lot of fountains in cast iron with three nozzles decorated with dragon heads, from where the water flowed down, then through a grate, into the sewer conduct. Subsequently, the model was slightly modified by removing the three openings in the shape of a dragon’s head and installing only a simple curved and smooth faucet. For the rest of the model, the “big noses” have remained unchanged over time, maintaining their charm.

fontanella

One of the oldest fountains, dating back to the original batch and still working, is located in Piazza della Rotonda, near the Pantheon, and is one of the few vintage “big noses” still working in Rome. The others are located in Via delle tre Cannelle (near Palazzo Colonna), in Via di San Teodoro (near the Mouth of Truth), and in Piazza San Giovanni della Malva and Piazza Priscinula in Trastevere. How about getting up and going to have a look and to take a step back in time (as well as a drink of really fresh water)?

The Municipality continues to produce these peculiar little fountains and to install them also in the new neighbourhoods, so, for many years to come we will not remain short of “big noses” gushing fresh and drinking water, free for all. One of the symbols of Rome, in other words, still enjoys pretty good health!


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