Fontana della Barcaccia

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Fontana della Barcaccia by Pietro and Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Piazza di Spagna, Rome
Fontana della Barcaccia, seen from the top of the Spanish Steps.
Fontana della Barcaccia with tourists

Fontana della Barcaccia (Fountain of the Old Boat/the No Good Boat) is a Baroque fresh-water fountain in the Piazza di Spagna in Rome, Italy, just below the Spanish Steps. It is so named because it is in the shape of a half-sunken ship with water overflowing its bows. The fountain was commissioned by Pope Urban VIII and was completed in 1627 by Pietro Bernini and his son Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

The shape was chosen because, prior to the river walls being built, the Tiber often flooded and in 1598 there was a particularly bad flooding and the Piazza di Spagna was flooded up to a metre. Once the water withdrew, a boat was left behind in the square.[1]

The English poet John Keats could hear the sound of the fountain's water flowing soothingly from his deathbed. He said it reminded him of lines from the 17th-century play Philaster, or Love Lies a-Bleeding (1611) and was the source for his epitaph: "Here lies one whose name was writ in water."


  1. ^ Rendina, Claudio (1999). Enciclopedia di Roma. Rome: Newton & Compton. 

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Coordinates: 41°54′21″N 12°28′56.25″E / 41.90583°N 12.4822917°E / 41.90583; 12.4822917