For more than a year, if you’ve wandered around Piazza Maggiore, admiring the Basilica di San Petronio, walking up the unusual steps to the Salaborsa, or visited the Bologna Welcome tourism offices, you can’t help but notice a large, temporary, shrouded structure towering over everyone passing by. In fact, on some of the maps visitors may have picked up, it might have referred to that as Piazza del Nettuno. But where’s Il Nettuno (Neptune)?
Il Nettuno, in this case, is a massive fountain that has undergone extensive renovation and restoration over the past year or more. Considering all that the statue and fountain has been through since it was completed by Giambologna around 1567 — not to mention some of the less than ideal restorations done in the past — this current restoration was particularly important.
Fortunately, even throughout the restoration, it has been possible to see the fountain of Neptune, just in a slightly less traditional manner. Special guided tours have been available, giving visitors a chance to go behind the scenes for a unique view of this famous fountain and from a bird’s-eye view that would normally not be an option. A series of ramps takes you around the entire fountain, slowly working your way up until you’re eye to eye with the grand Roman god of the seas. To be honest, look at him that closely and it’s easy to think that an ancient relative of Jason Momoa could have modeled for Giambologna.
The work has finished and the scaffolding and protective sheeting is gone. Now, on Friday afternoon, there will be an official ceremony to bring the Fountain of Neptune back to watery life. For now, enjoy some of these behind-the-scenes photos taken during the restoration. Hopefully, on Friday, I’ll take some new photos of the fountain in all of its restored glory.
Not all fountains are freestanding. La Fontana Vecchia (The Old Fountain) is built into the side of one of the walls of the Palazzo D’Accursio on Via Ugo Bassi. This is no simple fountain, though. In fact, it’s incredibly grand and impressive in its own rights, even though it was built originally more for the lower/working classes so that they wouldn’t befoul the water in the nearby Neptune Fountain washing their vegetables and who knows what else.
Cardinal Carlo Borromeo commissioned La Fontana Vecchia in 1563, with Tommaso Palermo Laureti chosen to create the fountain. The marble fountain was completed in 1565. A Sicilian painter, architect, and sculptor, Laureti worked and studied extensively in Bologna. However, having spent some time in Rome, the influence of Michelangelo worked its way into his artwork. As well as designing the Fontana Vecchia, Laureti’s drawings served as the foundation for the base and its figures of the Neptune Fountain, though the rest of the fountain was created by Giambologna. More about him and the Neptune Fountain in another post.
Plaques and bas-relief sculptures cover the fountain, including family coats of arms and the Papal crown and keys in the center in honor of Pope Pius IV. A member of the Medici, his coat of arms is displayed beneath the crown and keys. There are also other symbols displayed on the fountain, such as the word “Libertas”, which represents the city of Bologna. You’ll see the word in a variety of locations throughout the city.
On the weekends, or at least Sunday, Via Ugo Bassi is among the T Zone streets that are closed to traffic, making this the best time to see the fountain. It is tall enough that it can give you a crick in the neck if you stand close to it and look up. The center of the street gives you the best all-encompassing view. For what it’s worth, there’s still water in the fountain and as I stood there trying to get some photographs, I even saw someone dipping their hands in and possibly even splashing their face. I can’t help but love a fountain that is nearly 500 years old and still in use, in one way or another.