Italy Piazza del Nettuno

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Sue Wolfe

About this spot
Front and center in the Piazza del Nettuno is the Fontana del Nettuno which was sculpted by Giambologna in 1556. The bronze sculpture features “Il Gigante” (Neptune) and four putti (cherubs) representing the winds. The fountain also features four voluptuous mermaids riding dolphins. The dolphins represent the Ganges, the Nile, the Amazon, and the Danube rivers.

To remind citizens of who was in charge, Pope Pius IV chose Neptune as a symbol—just as Neptune was the master of the seas, the Pope was the master of Bologna. The inscription at the fountain base translated reads “to embellish the square for the use of the people made with public money.”

With the not so friendly relationship with the Pope, the Bolognesi took delight in the fact that the Papacy thought the sculpture profane. The story goes that Giambologna wanted to make Neptune’s private parts somewhat larger, but this was forbidden by the church. From a certain angle, the thumb of the left hand takes on a somewhat different aspect and this is supposed to be Giambologna’s revenge. At one point Neptune was “robed.” However, today you can see him in all his glory.

The Fountain of Neptune is located right off the Piazza Maggiore, sandwiched between the Sala Borsa and Palazzo Re Enzo.

The trident may look familiar to you—it is the symbol of the Maserati car company.

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