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43. The "Nasoni" of Rome

Updated: Mar 20, 2020

By - Giulio D'Ercole

Are you walking in Rome during a hot summer or in the spring under the warm sun? Are you feeling thirsty, so thirsty, but you forgot your flask in the hotel room, and there are no bars in the vicinity where you could get a nice glass of cold water? Do not panic, Rome has the solution for you: I Nasoni! The nasoni (plural for nasone), also called fontanelle (plural for fontanella, lit. "little fountains"), are there to quench your thirst. They are the typical Roman type of drinking fountain from which you can drink one of the best waters you could ever find. Cold, clean, refreshing.... and 100% free. This truly is the kind of salvation you were looking for.

The word "Nasone" literally means "large nose", and it got the name from the characteristic design of its pouring water pipe. They were first introduced in the 1870s and today there are approximately 2,500–2,800 nasoni in Rome (once they were about 5,000), supplying citizens and tourists with the highly needed drinking water. In the very hot summer days, some visitors also use them to cool down their burning heads, faces, necks and, the most daring and impolite ones, even their feet.

Aside from the social-welfare benefit of supplying drinkable water to citizens, "Nasoni" are required because of the specifics of the Roman water-supply system: the ventilation needed by the valves is provided by the nasoni. In addition, constantly flowing water keeps the water in the pipes from stagnating, which might otherwise allow bacteria to proliferate. While this has been criticized by some as a waste of drinking water, only 1% of the water is lost through non-stop nasoni, compared with nearly 50% due to old and leaky pipes (sigh). According to estimates, operating a nasone costs the city of Rome approximately 3–5 Euro per day, depending on the strength of the water flow.

In addition to that, these useful little fountains do not bring relief only to human beings, but also to their best friends.

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