Fontana del Mascherone, Rome
Walking on Via Giulia toward the Tiber from Rome center just after we pass under the extraordinary vine covered bridge (another off the beaten path tip) built by the family Farnese, we find the Fontana del Mascherone (the Big Mask - do we wonder why it is so named?). Everyone agrees that this is one of the more bizaare monuments of Rome - and it does have a twin (not an identical twin - but a twin no less) in Spoletto (photo 2).
Another of the Farnese family gifts to Rome, no one seems to know who sculpted it - or at least no one in history cared to own up to the questionable artistry. It is said that the Farnese's had wine flowing from the fountain during their more notable soirees.
This fountain is named the Fountain of the Big Mask, for obvious reasons. It was commissioned by the Farnese family and was sculpted by an unknown artist in 1626. The Farnese, who lived in the Palazzo Farnese just opposite the fountain (now the French embassy) were known for throwing extravagant parties in the piazza in front of their palace. On these occasions the fountain would flow not with water but with wine.
In fact, a similar tradition still takes place at the annual wine festival in Marino, a small village near Rome. The festival, called the Sagra dell'Uva, is held on the first Sunday of October. The highlight is the 'miracle' of the fountain, when the fountain in the main square of the village flows with wine, until the wine runs out. After that people start throwing grapes at each other and it turns into a big food fight.
Do take note that not only does the Fontana del Mascherone not flow with wine today, unlike most of Rome's fountains it does not even flow with potable water. There is a small sign saying 'non potabile" in Italian, but it's easy to miss. I have a feeling it comes directly from the filthy Tiber River nearby, which is pretty dangerous when so many people are used to drinking straight from the fountains.
Near the southeastern end of Via Giulia, just behind Palazzo Farnese. Photo by liamr