|Fontanella dell'Orso © Deborah Swain|
Unfortunately, this early 20th century fountain by is somewhat neglected nowadays – its elegant travertine basin is chipped, its pedestal is often covered by unswept litter or leaves and it has to compete for attention with faded election campaign posters that plaster the nearby walls. This is a real pity. Whilst this bronze head of a bear spouting pure drinking water from its mouth - carried by the Acqua Vergine aqueduct - may not be a star attraction in a city that boasts some of the finest sculptural fountains in the world, it is still a charming reminder of the history of its immediate surroundings.
Situated in the old Rione V Ponte, the use of a bear – orso in Italian – may well have been a nod towards the local Orsini family, not to mention one of Rome's most famous inns, the fifteenth century "Locanda dell'Orso" (known as "Hostaria dell'Orso" today) which is just yards away at the end of none other than via dell'Orso.
The fountain was constructed by the Comune of Rome as indicated by the SPQR coat of arms above the fountain, although the sculptor who created the bear would seem to be unknown.
Definitely worth a short detour if you find yourself in the old Rione Ponte V district!