The greatest figures of history have always used artistic and architectural commissions for self-aggrandisement and creation of self-image, from Roman Emperors and their circuses, colosseums and baths, to Napoleon’s refashioning of Paris. But I wonder exactly what image the magistrate of Treviso city, Alvise da Ponte, was intending to portray through his commission of the Fontana delle Tette, the Fountain of the Tits.
Carved in 1559, Podestà da Ponte ordered the Fontana delle Tette to celebrate the end of a severe drought that hit Treviso and the surrounding area. From one breast flowed a stream of red wine, and from the other white – eroticism Italian style. From that time until the fall of the Venetian Republic in 1797, in honour of every new Podestà the fountain gave forth white and red wine which the citizens could drink freely for three days.
The original sculpture has been badly damaged (too many eager citizens thrusting carafes at her to be filled?) and was moved and placed in a show case under the portico of the Palazzo dei Trecento (there’s a good bar here too). Sadly her face is particularly worn, though a slight smile still seems to play about her lips. Only her well-endowed torso remains of the original fountain. However, a copy can be found in the courtyard of the Palazzo Zignoli, accessible through the gallery that connects the Calmaggiore at the Piazzetta della Torre to the calle del Podestà. It’s a must when you visit Treviso to drink from the fountain, a taking of some less than holy waters.
Unfortunately Treviso no longer sees it a necessary public service to provide wine free of charge from the fountain, so try the Osteria Muscoli in the centre of Treviso for a traditional prosecco, which can be ‘tranquillo’ (still) as well as sparkling. You can also try some typical Treviso dishes here.
Treviso tourist information in English
Good Telegraph introduction to Treviso