Turtle Fountain (Fontana delle Tartarughe)
This small masterpiece of late Renaissance sculpture, built between 1580 and 1588, was designed by sculptor Taddeo Landini and architect Giacomo della Porta to supply drinking water from the Roman Acqua Vergine aqueduct to the residents of the Jewish Ghetto. Water still flows from its upper basin, but the fountain is more decorative than functional today. One of the most photographed fountains in the city, the Fontana delle Tartarughe is featured on most walking and food tours of the Jewish Ghetto, in addition to important Jewish cultural sights like the synagogue and Jewish Museum, the neighborhood’s ancient ruins, and the Bocca della Verità (Mouth of Truth) marble mask at the Basilica of St. Mary in Cosmedin, made famous in the classic film Roman Holiday.
Things to know before you go
- Most Jewish Ghetto tours are on foot or by bike, so wear comfortable shoes, a hat, and sunscreen.
- Be sure to bring your camera to snap a photo of this endearing landmark fountain.
- Piazza Mattei is pedestrian and paved, so the fountain can easily be approached and admired by wheelchair users.
- Even kids love the Turtle Fountain, and the low iron fence around the perimeter keeps them at a safe distance from the bottom basin.
How to get there
The Turtle Fountain is in Piazza Mattei in the Jewish Ghetto, directly across the Tiber River from the Trastevere neighborhood. There are no metro stops near the Ghetto, but a number of bus lines connect it with the Termini train station and other neighborhoods in the city.
When to get there
Jewish Ghetto tours including a stop at the Turtle Fountain are best scheduled when the neighborhood businesses are open; many close for the Jewish Sabbath from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday.
The Lighthearted Design of the Turtle Fountain
This pretty fountain’s design features a central pedestal depicting four ephebes perched on marble shells, each lifting turtles to the upper water basin. Originally, the ephebes lifted small dolphins, which were replaced a century later by turtles due to low water pressure. Today, the original bronze turtles that gave the fountain its name have been replaced by replicas thanks to a spate of thieving; the originals are preserved in the Capitoline Museums.
- Rome Jewish Ghetto (Ghetto Ebraico di Roma)
- Catacombs of Rome (Catacombe di Roma)
- Portico of Octavia (Portico di Ottavia)
- Jewish Museum of Rome (Museo Ebraico di Roma)
- Great Synagogue of Rome (Tempio Maggiore di Roma)
- Church of the Gesù (Chiesa del Gesù)
- Largo di Torre Argentina
- Theater of Marcellus (Teatro di Marcello)
- Tiber Island (Isola Tiberina)
- St. Nicholas Basilica in Carcere (Basilica San Nicola)
- Vittoriano Museum Complex (Complesso del Museo Vittoriano)
- San Carlo ai Catinari Church (Chiesa di San Carlo ai Catinari)
- Capitoline Hill and Museums (Campidoglio e Musei Capitolini)
- Piazza del Campidoglio
- Vittorio Emmanuele II Monument (Vittoriano)