Rome is awash with fountains and of course most tourists rush to see the Trevi fountain. However, there are little fountains everywhere and not only are they beautiful to behold but it’s very pleasant to hear the tinkling sound of falling water as you walk by. The ancient Romans, believing that water was a basic human right, and being fond of their baths which were centres of social life, built 11 aqueducts both under and above ground over a period of 500 years from 312 BC to 226 AD. These aqueducts fed fountains all over the city and ensured that Rome’s inhabitants had a ready supply of water.
It never occurred to me that water from the fountains was actually potable since growing up in the tropics has left me with a distrust of drinking water unless I’m confident of its source. Then I read David Winner’s most entertaining book ‘Al Dente’ which is a series of random essays on various topics relating to Rome, one of them being water and he talked about how delicious the water from the fountains was.
I began to notice that there were small drinking fountains called ‘nasone’ (because they resemble big noses) along many streets. We have two on our street and people use them for drinking water, splashing it on themselves if they are too hot or filling up buckets to water their plants. Yesterday, I saw a man filling up a bucket for mopping the floor. The fountain happened to be outside his house so I guess it was easier to get the water at ground level than lifting the bucket into the kitchen sink. Anyhow, enough said about what people use it for, the water from these fountains is truly delicious for drinking. I carry my empty water bottle around just so I can fill it up from a nasone and enjoy its cool and fresh taste, like drinking from a mountain stream!