A fountain dedicated to wine porters

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The remarkable fountain in Rome known as the Botticella (little barrel) between Via di Ripetta and Piazza Augusto Imperatore was erected in 1774 by the guild of innkeepers and boatmen of the former port of Ripetta, where ships loaded with merchandise used to dock.

Opposite San Rocco, the innkeepers wanted to build a fountain representing a porter to commemorate all those who unloaded the wood, wine, vegetables, and other goods arriving in Rome by river. Yet the figure of the wine porter was not chosen at random; among all the goods arriving in the port of Ripette, the most coveted was wine. All the casks sent from the north of ancient Latium were first traded here. The porters spent their time wine-tasting in front of the church of Saint Roch, patron of innkeepers, in a jovial atmosphere.

The present site of the fountain, between the churches of San Girolamo degli Schiavoni and San Rocco, in a niche of the archway that links them, dates back to the 1940 renovation of the zone around the Mausoleum of Augustus. Several sources record that this fountain was formerly set against the façade of a neighbouring building, now demolished.

The figure of the porter is recognisable by his beret worn at an angle, typical headgear of that corporation. The fountain was paid for by Pope Clement XIV (1705-1774, elected pope in 1769), as recalled by the inscription with its distinctive lettering, the figures of which do not respect the tradition of Roman numerals. Clement XIV has been rendered as Clement XIIII, while the date 1774, also has some inverted or unaligned figures – probably following the fashion of the day.

This fountain, like the Trevi, Barcaccia and so many others, is fed by the Acqua Vergine (Aqua Virgo), the source of which is 12km from Rome, and from which water is still brought into Rome today via Agrippa’s aqueduct.

So next time you are in Rome go and pay a visit to the wine porter and then visit a wine bar and raise a glass to the wine porters who are celebrated by this fountain!

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