Fontana dell'Orso on via di Monte Brianzo

Fontanella dell'Orso © Deborah Swain
I first spotted this tiny drinking fountain from the window of the 492 bus, which passes directly by it, just below the Lungotevere near piazza Ponte Umberto on via di Monte Brianzo. I was intrigued and went to take a closer look on foot one day and thought it would make another interesting item for our Discover Rome section.

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!