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Piazza della Rotonda

Piazza della Rotonda is the real name of Piazza del Pantheon and its origins arise from the name that the people had given to the immense 'Rotonna', the magnificent Roman monument dominating it. In addition to the Pantheon, there is a splendid Renaissance fountain in the centre of the square. Originally, there was just a simple 15th century porphyry basin with two stone lions at the centre but this was replaced by the one designed by Giacomo della Porta in the 16th century.

The part connected to the sculpture was entrusted to Leonardo Sormani. In actual fact, the two artists created the project before it had been decided where to put the fountain but, at the time, this was standard practice, particularly for Della Porta, who had already been entrusted with several fountains in Rome, which he almost mass-produced, at speeds that were almost industrial, without taking into account where they should go.

It was only decided where to put it in 1576. Della Porta was inspired by the grotesques that he was creating, from a drawing by Michelangelo, at the Palazzo dei Conservatori in Campidoglio, for the decorative masks. They may have been thought of for the 'Calderari fountain' in Piazza Navona, seeing that they are identical to those on the Moro fountain in the square.

Those visible today are inexplicably 19th century copies. Like many of the Della Porta fountains, this, too, is square with lobes at the corners on a base of the same shape. In 1700, the fountain underwent many changes. Pope Clemente IX had the basin removed and added the ensemble of rocks, grass and dolphins supporting the Egyptian obelisk, more than six metres, known as 'Macuteo' because it was found in Piazza San Macuto. The base was also raised and the number of steps increased from two to five. The last restoration dates to 1880, as confirmed by a small inscription on the fountain.

The square, which today seems refined and elegant, was the site of the vegetable and fish market until the end of the 19th century. It was very difficult to remove the market from the area until Pope Pio VII succeeded in moving it to Piazza delle Coppelle.

But the documents show that a group of fishmongers returned to occupy the square illegally a few years later, as the fountain was very useful for putting fish in to keep fresh!