In a city as old and as large as Rome, there are bound to be interesting places that are out of sight and can easily remain off the radar to tourists. The secret archaeological site under the Trevi Fountain is one such spot. As the most well-known tourist location in the Eternal City, travelers far and wide flock to the Trevi Fountain to toss in coins to ensure their return. Few realize that just below their feet is the little-known Vicus Caprarius, also called “the City of Water.” It is an ancient Roman domus or housing complex located beneath the city’s Trevi district, including its famed fountain. The archaeological site dates back to the first century, but remarkably, it remained undiscovered until two decades ago, when renovations and expansion of the Trevi Cinema were undertaken.
Vicus Caprarius was constructed after the Great Fire of 64 AD, famously, although inaccurately blamed on the Emperor Nero. Today, you can head to the underground site for a glimpse at the homes of upper-class Romans from two thousand years ago. The space also displays examples of the hundreds of artifacts that were found during excavation, including terra-cotta figurines, pottery, mosaic tiles and more than 800 coins.
What makes this hidden location particularly special is the water that runs through it. At Vicus Caprarius, there are pools that fill with water from the Aqua Virgo, one of the eleven aqueducts of ancient Rome. This aqueduct still discharges its waters to a castellum aquae (fort of water), which ultimately feeds into the Trevi Fountain. So the water that one sees in Vicus Caprarius will eventually make its way to the fountain that tourists happily shower with coins. Tickets for this archaeological site are only four euro, a small price to pay to visit Rome’s best kept secret.