Tourists strike again! A video showing a woman trespassing on Rome’s famous Trevi Fountain in an effort to refill her water bottle is going viral on TikTok this week. The clip shows an unidentified person carefully balancing atop the rocks at the base of the 18th-century Baroque fountain to casually fill up her bottle. The video has garnered over 1.3 million views, sparking outrage in the wake of another incident in late June when a tourist was caught etching his and his lover’s initials on a wall of the Colosseum.
The video, filmed by Lex Jones, shows the aftermath as the woman finishes filling up her bottle, climbs out of the fountain, and makes her way back to dry land, where she is quickly greeted by a security guard in a bright yellow vest. The two have a brief conversation — in which the trespasser looks genuinely puzzled — and then together leave the area. It is unclear whether the woman faced any legal penalties or fines for her actions. Hyperallergic has contacted the Italian Ministry of Culture for comment.
The historic center of Rome is a UNESCO heritage site, and the city updated and expanded legislation in 2019 in an effort to curb inappropriate behavior and protect Italy’s cultural heritage sites. The law forbids “bathing in historic fountains” as well as climbing onto the structures. Other banned behaviors include “throwing objects, spilling substances, or immersing animals in them.”
However, they specifically do not forbid the tradition of throwing coins into the fountains — a ritual that many visitors and locals alike participate in to ensure a return to the city, as well as good fortune going forward.
Water for the Trevi Fountain is sourced from the Aqua Virgo, one of Rome’s 11 ancient aqueducts that is still in use. Designed by Roman architect Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, the Aqua Virgo dates back to 19 BCE, when it was constructed to supply water for the Campus Martius — an area that was primarily used as a military exercise ground, then later the site of large public buildings including baths, amphitheaters, theaters, and temples like the Pantheon. Although the fountain’s water is cleaned several times a week, the question of whether the water is safe to drink remains up for debate. At one point, the Aqua Virgo provided clean drinking water for the residents of Ancient Rome, but today several travel blogs and other sites do not recommend drinking it, alleging that the water is recycled.
The iconic site has historically been vulnerable to haphazard tourists, but while it’s not clear why the woman took such drastic measures to fill up her bottle, the Mediterranean region’s extreme temperatures this summer may have something to do with it. Record-breaking heat in some areas has led to destructive wildfires that have claimed lives and destroyed cultural heritage, and health officials warned of dangerous complications like dehydration. A heatwave even prompted the Acropolis in Athens to close temporarily in mid-July.
The viral video follows a protest action by climate organizers in May, who dyed the fountain’s pristine blue waters black with charcoal as a way to call out Italy’s increasingly worsening floods from climate change.