The small and elegant square is dedicated to Muzio Mattei, the Italian nobleman who died in 1596. The square is famous for its beautiful fountain. This is a great stop in Rome. So much history and the architecture is unbelievable. There are current excavations going on and you can walk right up to them. Wear good walking shoes, the ground is not level. There are many famous attractions in Rome, but this quaint and quirky Piazza is well worth seeing.
The name of this square derives from the property that the Mattei family had in this zone. In the middle of it is Turtle Fountain (Fontana delle Tartarughe), built according to a design of G.Della Porta in 1581-1584, with the bronze sculptures by T.Landini, and restored in 1658 probably by G.L.Bernini.
Piazza Mattei (Mattei Square) is situated in the heart of Renaissance Rome. It is overlooked by the Palazzo Costaguti, with its wonderful fresco ceilings by Guercino, Domenichino, Lanfranco and other artists; the low and bare facades of the two ancient palazzos Mattei built at the end of the 15th century and in the first half of the 16th century, probably by Nanni di Baccio Bigio for Mattei’s sons.
Turtle fountain Giudia Square
The Turtle Fountain is a little gem and a wonderful surprise in one of the most picturesque and historic corners of Rome.
The young man with a dolphin is a typical image of the old stories about the Aegean Sea, and echoes a beautiful sculpture described by Aulus Gellius in his “Attic Nights”. The same iconography also resurfaced in emblems, fantastic and grotesque images during the Renaissance – and was likely part of Jacopo Della Porta’s artistic and literary historical references.
In the Sant’Angelo district, near the Jewish Ghetto, it adorns the small (Originally was planned to place it in Giudia Square) Mattei Square, named after the powerful family who owned all the palazzos in the piazza.
Turtle fountain like the Trevi Fountain, it is one of Rome’s many famous fountains and is likewise fed by the Virgin Aqueduct that has been quenching Romans’ thirst since the age of Emperor Augustus.
At its inception in the late 1500s, the fountain was originally intended for the neighbouring Piazza Giudea, where there was a market. However, Muzio Matteiinsisted that it be built right in front of his palazzo.
In exchange, the family agreed to pave the piazza and to keep the fountain clean.
It was designed by Giacomo della Porta, who also created the two fountains at either end of the Piazza Navona. The fountain underwent many changes during the construction process. The ornamentations of four ephebes (youths) and eight dolphins were originally planned in marble, but in the end they were all bronze. Upon completion of the work, four of the dolphins could not be used because the low water pressure didn’t provide a strong enough jet. As a result, they were “recycled” in another fountain that is now in the Piazza della Chiesa Nuova.
Admired today is a square basin with four marble shells on a pedestal, which supports another basin decorated with cherub heads. The four ephebes rest their feet on the dolphins, holding their tails and urging the little turtles to drink. The basin receives water from the main spurt that flows into the basin below from the mouths of four putti. The tortoises were probably added by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in 1658 when the fountain was restored at the time of pope Alexander the Seventh Chigi (1655-1667). They were subject to repeated thefts in 1906, 1944, and recently in 1981. The current tortoises are copies of the surviving originals that are kept in the Capitoline Museums.