A short distance from the Piazza Navona is a rather quirky drinking fountain, the Fontanella dei Libri. The fountain is decorated with four books (libri), five balls, the letters S.P.Q.R., and the head of a stag. Look more closely at the stag’s head and you will see, between the antlers, an inscription which takes the form of a cross. What does it all mean?
In 1926 Pietro Lombardi (1894-1984), a young Roman architect, won a national competition to furnish small drinking fountains (fontanelle) for the rioni (administrative districts) of his native city. Lombardi had a bit of a track record in the field, having already designed the Fontana delle Anfore, the Fountain of the Amphorae, which is situated in Piazza dell' Emporio.
Each of the fountains had to reflect the history and character of the local area. For instance, the Fontanella dei Libri refers to the church of Sant' Eustachio (stag and antlers), the Sapienza, the old university of Rome (books) and the Palazzo Madama (now the seat of the Senate), which once belonged to the Medici family (balls).
Lombardi designed a total of 10 fountains:
The Fontanella della Cancelleria (Rione di Parione) is not the work of Lombardi; the fountain was created in 1930 by Publio Morbiducci.