On the long walks, roaming the winding streets of the city, the ice-cold spring water flowing abundantly from the nasone is quite a refreshing treat. Stumbling upon them on a hot sunny day, the fountain becomes a little oasis. You may come across children playing acrobatically with the water, locals splashing the cool water on their faces, or simply someone filling their water bottle.
By plugging the main part of the spout, a small hole at the top sends the water cascading out in a little arch, perfect for drinking. The long, bent cast iron spout sticking out of the fountain is what gave the fountains their unique name, nasoni, meaning “big nose”. Most of the fountains do not have basins, but just a hole to capture the water (which is recycled and reused for various purposes). The reason for this was because the purpose of the fountains were to provide the public with a means of washing, cooking, and drinking, so there was no need for the basins.
What started as 20 simple public drinking fountains, mainly in the Trastevere neighborhood, turned into 2,500 scattered about the city. Each one is marked with the S.P.Q.R (Sentus Populusque Romanus), referring to the government of the ancient Roman Republic, still used today as an official signature. The original fountains were designed with three nozzles topped with a dragon head, but were developed into a simpler form when mass produced in 1874, to accommodate the many immigrants settling in Rome. You can typically find them in outdoor markets, and in main piazza and squares. Although they play a small role in Roman history, the charming little nasoni are still very much a part of the daily life in Rome.
– Amber Conwell