With its breathtaking view, the Fontana dell'Acqua Paola is one of the most romantic and picturesque places in Rome. Known by Romans as er Fontanone (the Big Fountain), it is a baroque jewel that graces the Janiculum landscape with its marble splendour.
Commissioned by Paul V Borghese in 1600 as a monumental display of the aqueduct, the fountain marks the end of the aqueduct and celebrates its creator, the Pope, in name: Acqua Paola. Immediately upon being elected, Paul V committed to numerous public works projects. Among them was the repair of the ancient Trajan Aqueduct so that it could bring water to Trastevere again. Three architects worked on the project. However, the monumental work was created by Flaminio Ponzio and Giovanni Fontana who, after working three years on the colossal undertaking, succeeded in bring water to Janiculum.
As was the practice at the time, all the construction materials were scavenged from ancient monuments. Stone and marble were taken from the Forum of Nerva, and the granite columns from the ancient St. Peter's Basilica built by Emperor Constantine.
The fountain resembles the Triumphal Arches of ancient Rome. It has five arches separated by massive marble columns and three central niches with waterfalls. Originally there were five water basins, one for each arch; however, in 1690 Carlo Fontana created the large semicircular basin that mirrored the shape of the wide viewing terrace.
Behind the arches are three openings that provide glimpses into the Botanical Garden beyond. Above, at the top, there are two winged angels holding the Papal crest, while dragons and eagles stand guard at the ends.
There is an inscription celebrating the Pope responsible for restoring the aqueduct and creating the fountain, but it contains a mistake. It states that the old Alsietina Aqueduct was restored to create the Acqua Paola, while in actuality it was Trajan's Aqueduct that was repaired.
In 1849, during the tough battle on Janiculum, the Fontanone sustained damage from French cannon fire.
The most recent restoration, which took place in 2002-2004, restored the fountain to its original splendour, showing off the contrast between the white stone and the coloured marble lit by the reflections of the moving water.