Is Rome's Iconic Trevi Fountain A Total Tourist Trap Or Must-See?

You've probably seen glorious pictures like the one above of Rome's famous Trevi Fountain. It's an iconic spot whose recognizability rivals the Colosseum and the Forum, despite being built in the 18th century C.E. Featuring soaring Baroque sculptures of the sea god Oceanus, hippocampi (horses with fish tails), and the goddesses of Abundance and Health, it has captured the imagination of tourists since it first appeared. Of course, if you try to take a picture like this one, you're going to have to do some creative photo editing to remove the hundreds of other tourists out of the frame. You'll likely hear people call the Trevi Fountain a tourist trap, and they're not completely wrong. 


It's absolutely beautiful, but on a recent trip to Rome, we were stuck with wall-to-wall people there, complete with shoving and yelling. Plus, it's so busy and popular that there are strict rules for tourists who visit the Trevi Fountain. You can't drink or eat there, you can't sit on the edge or you'll be fined, and in 2020, the then-mayor of Rome even proposed limiting the number of people who can visit each day. 

Rome has an awful lot of gorgeous fountains, so should you skip this one and see others instead? We've got all the info you need about the Trevi Fountain, and a few alternatives, including one you've likely seen in films. 

Should you bother with the Trevi Fountain?

The picture above is far more accurate to what you'll likely see at the Trevi Fountain unless you go at sunrise. It's easy to understand why it's so popular. Designed by Nicola Salvi and completed in 1762 by Giuseppe Pannini after Salvi's death, the Trevi Fountain took 30 years to finish. It's 85 feet tall and 160 feet wide and appears to bring the mythological and magical out of the mundane, with the gods and rocks emerging from a regular building structure. 


There are wonderful things about this spot, not the least of which is that the coins thrown into the fountain have been given to charity since 2006, with over $3,800 collected each day. There is also a legend that comes from the 1954 movie "Three Coins in the Fountain" that if you throw in a coin, you'll return to Rome. Two coins, and you'll end up in love with a handsome Italian. Three coins, and you'll marry that person. (You must turn your back and throw the coin over your left shoulder with your right hand.) 

Unfortunately, the crowds can be frustrating and oppressive. It feels like you're being rushed through like a conveyor belt so everyone can take a picture. Plus, pickpockets abound here (travel pro Rick Steves does have expert tips to not get pickpocketed). You may also be harassed by vendors and people offering you seemingly free "gifts" that you'll end up charged for. It's worth looking at alternatives.


Other fountains in Rome to visit instead of the Trevi Fountain

There are alternative fountains that you'll have an easier time enjoying in Rome. Our favorite is the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, or the Fountain of the Four Rivers. If it looks familiar, it's been featured in "Angels and Demons" and "Eat Pray Love." Commissioned by Pope Innocent X and created by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, the fountain sits in the Piazza Navona. It features dynamic sculptures of representations of major rivers on the four known continents in the Renaissance. The Nile in Africa is represented by a god with his face covered because of the mystery of the Nile's source. The European Danube, the closest river to Rome, shows the papal coat of arms. The Ganges in Asia has an oar for navigation, and the Río de la Plata, representing the Americas, sits on coins as the New World was thought to be a source of wealth. Here you can sit and appreciate the beauty and lines of the sculptures.


Another Bernini fountain to visit is the Fontana del Tritone or Triton Fountain in the Piazza Barberini featuring dolphins, the sea god Triton, and lovely shells. It's a busy traffic spot, but once there, you'll likely be one of very few tourists. In the Piazza Navona, you'll find the Neptune Fountain or Fontana de Nettuno. The god fights a sea creature in front of the church of Saint Agnes, as a horse almost breaks the fourth wall, so to speak, emerging from the waters.