Fontana della Barcaccia Rome

The Fontana della Barcaccia (“Fountain of the Old Boat” or “Fountain of the Ugly Boat”) can be found at the bottom of the Spanish Steps in Rome, right in the middle of the Piazza di Spagna.

Fontana della Barcaccia Rome

History and description

Fontana della Barcaccia Rome
Fontana della Barcaccia

The Fontana della Barcaccia is a baroque water fountain in the shape of an old boat (hence the name “barcaccia“). The motif was chosen when an old boat was left behind after the Tiber had flooded (a regular occurrence before the walls around this river were constructed). After the water had receded, an old boat was left behind in the spot where the fountain was constructed.

The fountain was built by the two Bernini‘s, father Pietro and son Gian Lorenzo.

The work, commissioned by Pope Urban VIII, began in 1626 and was completed three years later. The Pope’s family name was Barberini, and the fountain is therefore decorated with this family’s coat of arms, three bees. The two suns sculpted in the boat are also Barberini symbols.

Another theory is that the area would have been used for a naumachia (a place where naval battles, often with life-size ships, were simulated).

What is most striking about the fountain is that the water does not spray upward, as with most fountains, but slides down the sides of the boat. The low pressure of the water is thus turned into an aesthetic advantage.


A one year restoration of the fountain was completed on September 22, 2014. The Fontana della Barcaccia could again be admired in all its splendor. Only a couple of months later a group of Dutch football hooligans damaged the monument and a new restoration was necessary.

Piazza di Spagna – Rome

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