Marking the center of Piazza di Spagna, the unique 17th-century Barcaccia Fountain (Fontana della Barcaccia) is one of the most famous in Rome. Commissioned by Pope Urban VIII Barberini and designed by Pietro Bernini, the fountain sits at the base of Rome’s Spanish Steps and is a popular gathering spot in the square.
Barcaccia means “old boat” in Italian, and the Fontana della Barcaccia’s Baroque design of a half-sunken ship is said to be modeled on a ship that was deposited on this spot after the Tiber river flooded in 1598. The fountain features two masks on either end of the central marble boat that spout water, and motifs featuring the sun and bees taken from the Barberini family coat of arms.
Rome walking tours or hop-on hop-off bus tours are a great way to see the Barcaccia Fountain along with the Spanish Steps and surrounding Piazza di Spagna. You can opt for a small-group or private fountain and square tour that also includes the Trevi Fountain and Piazza Navona, or a Rome highlights tour that stops at other famous attractions like the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Pantheon—often with skip-the-line access. For a unique look at the fountain, consider joining a small-group night tour to see the fountain dramatically lit.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Sitting on and bathing in the fountain is forbidden, though you can drink the water from the fountain spouts.
- The fountain is encircled by a low metal fence and is not accessible to wheelchair users.
- The house where English poet John Keats lived, now a museum dedicated to his memory and works, is located just opposite the fountain.
- Be aware of your surroundings and watch for peddlers who will thrust a rose or other souvenir into your hand and then demand payment.
How to Get There
Metro line A runs from the Termini train station to Piazza di Spagna.
When to Get There
Piazza di Spagna and the Barcaccia Fountain are crowded most of the day, so you'll have to visit early in the morning or late at night if you want to enjoy them in relative peace. The fountain is a good stop during the midday hours in summer, when you can take a cool drink from the spouts.
Waters from the Acqua Vergine
The water flowing in the Barcaccia Fountain comes from the Acqua Vergine, an aqueduct built in 19 BC that still provides clean drinking water to much of central Rome.