There’s nothing quite so refreshing as the sound of water on a hot summer’s day. Especially when you’re seated at a café in the town square, a glass of the local tipple in hand, living the good life—European style. So rediscover the primal connection we have to the local water hole at one of these famous fountains. They say that travel is the fountain of youth, but in these and many other European cities, you can take that concept literally.
Trevi Fountain – Rome: Of all the magnificent monuments in the Eternal City, almost no one misses a visit to the Trevi Fountain. It’s the largest Baroque fountain in Rome, possibly in the world. Its spectacular scale—86 feet high and over 160 feet wide—is matched by the splendor of its 18th century marble sculptures of Greek gods seen by day or lit up by night.
It’s located at the intersection of three roads (tre vie), and is the terminus of one of the aqueducts that supplied water for centuries to ancient Rome. Today, over 20 million gallons of water flow through the Trevi fountain—every day! But it’s recycled and no longer drinkable. Over a million euros a year are thrown into the Trevi Fountain. It’s emptied nightly of coins, which are donated to help feed Rome’s hungry.
Manneken Pis, Brussels, Belgium: Belgium’s entry into our list of famous fountains is just two feet tall. The bronze sculpture of a boy urinating into the fountain’s basin was erected in the early 1600’s and is one of the most famous symbols of both Brussels and Belgium. Just a short walk from Brussels’ ‘Grand Place’ or main square, the misbehaving boy is considered an example of the local folk humor.
Taking the quirky humor to new levels, the statue is dressed in different costumes several times each week. You can view his 1,000-plus wardrobe in a special-purpose museum Garderobe MannekenPis, and the original, 500- year old sculpture is in the Brussels City Museum.
Jet D’eau, Geneva, Switzerland (pictured): Compared to the Trevi Fountain or the Manneken Pis, the Jet d’Eau in Lake Geneva is downright modern, dating from the late 1800s. The present fountain was installed in 1951 and pumps water in Lake Geneva where it meets the Rhone River.
Unlike other fountains that channel water hidden from view, the Jet d’Eau started for the practical purpose of acting as a pressure-release safety valve of a hydraulic plant on Lake Geneva. The jet fountain quickly became the symbol of the city, and the current version is one of the tallest jet fountains in the world, shooting water 130 gallons per second up to a height of over 450 feet. At any given moment, there are about 1800 gallons of water in the air.
The Jet d’Eau is visible throughout the city of Geneva and even from the air flying over Geneva. You can also see the Jet d’Eau up close by walking along a jetty from the left bank of Lake Geneva. But if the wind changes suddenly, prepared to get wet!
Aix En Provence, France: The former capital of Provence in the south of France, Aix is also known as the ‘City of Water’ and ‘City of 1000 Fountains.’ That’s because Aix was built over top of natural, underground springs and hot springs. Fountains were built throughout town to capture and funnel the water for use. Many of Aix’ fountains today are still fed by these aquifers.
The Romans, famous bathers, discovered the thermal waters and installed baths. The town is still famous as a spa town, and one spa still uses the Roman term in its name: Thermes Sextius. Residents of Aix still interact with their many fountains—dogs bathe, restaurants cool their wine, and some even have water that’s drinkable.
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