The Fontana di Trevi was commissioned by Pope Clement XII (r. 1730-40) and designed by Nicola Salvi (1697-1751). The project dragged on for 30 years (1732-1762) and was completed after Salvi's death by Giuseppe Pannini (1720-1812). The fountain was partly funded by a tax on wine, which led one wag to quip: ‘He taxed our wine to give us water!’
The focal point of the fountain is the statue of Oceanus by Pietro Bracci. The god stands on a shell-shaped chariot, which is being drawn by two marine horses, led by a pair of tritons, also the work of Bracci.
Oceanus is flanked by statues of Abundance and Salubrity, the work of Filippo della Valle. The statues are surmounted by two reliefs: Agrippa Approves the Design of the Aqueduct by G.B. Grossi and A Young Woman Indicates the Spring to Some Soldiers by Andrea Bergondi.
The Trevi is more than just a fountain; it is what is known as a mostra terminale, a display point marking the arrival of an aqueduct into the city, in this case the restored Acqua Vergine Antica (Aqua Virgo in Latin). The aqueduct was originally constructed in 19 BCE by Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa (63-12 BCE), the right-hand man of the emperor Augustus, to supply water to his recently constructed set of baths near the Pantheon. The aqueduct drew water from the springs at Salone, which lies 9 miles/15 kms from Rome.
The fountain is crowned with the coat of arms of Pope Clement XII.
The backdrop to the fountain is the 16th century Palazzo Poli, which was reworked in the 18th century by Luigi Vanvitelli (1700-73), an erstwhile pupil of Nicola Salvi.
The practise of throwing coins into the fountain dates back to the 19th century.
The Trevi Fountain has played a starring role in many films, most notably in Fellini's La Dolce Vita (1960). In one of the movie's most famous scenes, Anita Ekberg takes a midnight dip in the fountain, soon to be joined by Marcello Mastroianni. Following the death of the great Italian actor, on December 19th, 1996, the fountain was temporarily turned off and draped in black.