Lonely Planet Writer

Rome may turn off the city's 'nasoni' drinking water fountains for the the first time in 200 years

Rome has 2800 ‘nasoni’ (literally, ‘big noses’), small cast-iron drinking fountains that dot the city. Installed in 1874, they were given their nickname because of their distinctive nozzles (yes, they look vaguely like schnozzles).

The Nasoni Fountain, Via Nazionale, Rome.
The Nasoni Fountain, Via Nazionale, Rome. Image by Oliviero Olivieri / robertharding/Getty Images

They’re handily dotted all over Rome’s historic centre and suburbs, and are incredible boons in the summer heat, as fresh, cold water flows out 24 hours per day. The Romans call it ‘acqua del Sindaco’ or ‘mayor’s water’: you can refill your water bottle or have a drink whenever you need it.

However, this summer, areas of Italy are suffering from drought, due to lower-than-average rainfall, higher-than-usual temperatures, and ever-growing pressure on the water supply. A state of emergency has been declared in several regions, including Emilia-Romagna. In Rome, leaflets have been distributed to help the ‘ex-young’ of the city in the summer heat, including tips such as to stay inside during the hottest time of day and keep medicines in the fridge.

Rome’s main reservoir, Lago Bracciano, has lower than usual levels, and so the municipality is having to think the unthinkable and consider turning the water fountains off for the first time in their history, saving 1% of the water supply. Last week the Minister of the Environment and the Protection of Territory and Sea, Gian Luca Galletti, suggested that they consider ‘stopping the flow of the big noses, at least for a few days. ‘ However, for Roman mayor Virginia Raggi, the mayor’s water drying up may be a symbolic step too far: she recently retweeted an article that affirmed that rather than closing the noses, investment in better networks would be an answer to the water problem. Rome awaits with baited breath: in the meantime, refill your bottles while you can.