Whether constructed to encourage respect for leaders, to celebrate a wedding or just to enhance a piazza, Florence’s eclectic collection of fountains has long been appreciated by residents and tourists alike, with one particularly famous favourite said to bring good fortune to those who touch it. Here are some highlights among Florence’s fountains, many of which you may walk past every day.
Fountain of Neptune
The Fountain of Neptune in piazza della Signoria is the work of Bartolomeo Ammannati, and was completed in 1574 on the order of Cosimo I de’ Medici, to whom the fountain’s fierce bearded face bears resemblance. Nicknamed “Il Biancone” (“the white giant”), the fountain was not revered with quite the level of fear and respect as was originally intended; residents of Florence at the time used its basin to wash clothes and inkpots, prompting the installation of a still-visible plaque on the wall of Palazzo Vecchio in 1720 forbidding such activities. The fountain is currently undergoing 1.5 million-euro restoration work which should be completed by the end of this year.
The well-known bronze statue of a boar that sits in the Mercato del Porcellino and has its nose rubbed every day by hundreds of tourists is actually a modern copy of the original, which is on display in the Bardini Museum. The original was sculpted by Pietro Tacca in 1620 and is inspired by a Hellenistic marble boar that was gifted to Grand Duke Cosimo by Pope Pius IV during a visit to Rome in 1560. The misnamed ‘piglet’ has been copied in many different countries. Legend has it that rubbing the snout of the statue in the Mercato Nuovo ensures a return to Florence; putting a coin in the boar’s open jaws and letting it fall into the basin is said to bring good luck. This tradition has kept the snout in a polished golden condition, while the rest of the statue has dulled with time.
Ss. Annunziata sea monsters
One of two sea monster fountains in piazza Ss. Annunziata / Ph.
Wikimedia Commons user Sailko
These two peculiar bronze Mannerist fountains were sculpted by Pietro Tacca and placed in piazza Santissima Annunziata in 1641. Featuring sea monsters and creatures, the fountains were originally intended for the Port of Livorno, but Ferdinand II insisted that they remain in Florence.
The dolphin-toting Putto
In the centre of the “Michelozzo courtyard” of the Palazzo Vecchio stands a 16th-century fountain topped by a putto figure holding a dolphin, designed by Vasari. The figure is a copy of the original ‘Putto with a Dolphin’ statue by Andrea del Verrocchio, found inside the Palazzo Vecchio. The water flowing out of the dolphin’s nose is brought over via pipes from the Boboli Gardens.
The piazza Santa Croce fountain
In 1609 Cosimo I de’ Medici recruited his “go-to” fountain designer Pietro Tacca for this project, but it was not completed. In 1639, recycled stone found on the site was used to construct an early version of a fountain, and in 1673 Pier Maria Baldi, who had trained under Pietro’s son Ferdinando Tacca, drew up a more permanent plan for the fountain. Due to stone deterioration and damage from the floods of 1966, the fountain has been restored several times, most recently in 2016 and 2017, financed by an Indian benefactor.
Fontana dello Sprone
Fontana dello Sprone / Ph. Wikimedia Commons user Sailko
Bernardo Buontalenti sculpted this fountain, found at the corner of via dello Sprone and borgo San Jacopo in the Oltrarno. It was completed in 1608, probably for the celebration of the wedding of Cosimo II de’ Medici and Maria Maddalena d’Austria, and was restored in the 19th century by Giuseppe del Rosso. It features a bearded face spurting water into a shell-shaped basin.
Fontana del Carciofo
From Palazzo Pitti’s courtyard, or upon entering the garden, you’ll see a large octagonal fountain, which earned the nickname Fontana del Carciofo (“Artichoke Fountain”) over the years due to its design and shape. The fountain was sculpted by Francesco Susini and Franceso della Tadda and placed on the terrace in 1641. Leaves resembling those of an artichoke, shells and multiple marble putti all adorn it.