The fountains may be centuries old, but the water is still as fresh and safe to drink as ever.
As you approach the western end of Dubrovnik’s beautiful Stradun, you will notice an ornate stone structure which looks almost like a small shrine. As you get closer, however, you realise that this is in fact the famous large Onofrio’s Fountain, which has provided the citizens of the Old Town with fresh drinking water for nearly 600 years.
The Reign of Rain
In Dubrovnik’s early days as a city-state, the city relied on rain for fresh drinking water. The system was intricate in its own way, with rain channeled off the rooftops into cisterns for storage, but it still left the city in big trouble if there were several weeks without rain. At times the droughts would get so bad that enterprising individuals would fill hundreds of barrels with fresh water from nearby springs and bring them into the port on ships to sell to the thirsty citizens of Dubrovnik at extortionate rates.
Little and Large
In 1436, the authorities finally decided that enough was enough, and commissioned Onofrio Giordano della Cava to oversee the construction of an aqueduct running from a well, some 12km distant, directly into the city centre. Onofrio built two fountains at either end of Stradun which were to mark the ends of the aqueduct. The larger fountain was a magnificent sixteen-sided edifice, with each side sporting a “maskeron” (masked face) from whose mouth a tap protruded. Sadly the maskerons were damaged in a recent round of renovations, but you can still make some of them out. The small Onofrio’s fountain is a less grand affair, but is centred around a beautiful sculpture by the Milanese artist Petar Martinov.
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