On the Aventine Hill, in Pietro d’Illiria Square near the entrance to the Giardino degli Aranci (Orange Garden), there is a beautiful fountain made by a sixteenth-century mask. But this is not its original position: where does this fountain come from?

In 1585 the Pope Sixtus V (whose name was Felice Peretti) entrusted the project of a new aqueduct to the architect Giovanni Fontana, because he wanted to bring water to the Quirinale and Viminale Hills, where he had an immense and luxurious villa. For this purpose was partially restored an ancient roman aqueduct, called Alexandrinus, which was built in the 3th century AD. 

The new aqueduct was the first built in Rome after the fall of the Western Roman Empire. It was inaugurated in 1587 and it took the name of the Pope, “Felice”.

A secondary branch was built from its main conduit, intended to bring water into the valley of the Roman Forum.

The Roman Forum after the mid-1500s became a pastureland and a livestock market, taking the name of “Campo Vaccino”.  In 1589 Sixtus V commissioned the famous architect Giacomo Della Porta to design a new fountain for the Forum, connected to the branch from the Felice Acqueduct.

Della Porta used a magnificent oriental granite basin (diameter 28 feet), found near the Arch of Septimius Severus, and placed it next to a grotesque marble mask carved by the stonemason B.Bassi, with frowning lashes and a big mustache that covered the mouth of water.

Unfortunately over time the fountain was dismembered. In 1816 the basin was brought in front of the Quirinale Palace, where it is still located today, and it was placed at the foot of the Dioscuri statues.

The mask was first sent to the Porto Leonino alla Lungara, on the River Tevere, and then escorted to the municipal warehouses. Finally, in 1936, the mistreated mask was placed on the Aventine, above an ancient granite basin and here continues to perform its ancient function very well.

But this is not its original position!    www.localguidesrome.org