Nicola Alessandrini

Lacrima Vergine

Nicola Alessandrini believes that “intelligence is not the opposite of instinct but its evolution into something more complex, and that we human beings are therefore in some ways evolved animals and in others backward, at the heart of a transformation in perennial development, despite the arrogance – perhaps derived from a concept personified by Catholicism – of thinking we are at the centre of the universe and the highest form of evolution.”

In these two murals, however, Nicola has in some way reversed the process of dehumanization that he often applies to human forms in his work to underline our fragmentary, unfinished condition. Here we have two weeping horse heads, more human than humans themselves. They are two horses that we find in the sculptures of the Trevi Fountain, whose principal subject is water and its sources. Sources like the aqueduct of the Aqua Virgo – the only still-functioning Roman aqueduct – which carries water to the most important fountains of the Eternal City.

That ‘virgin’ water, which was once among the finest in Rome due to its not being calcareous, is, thanks to urbanization, today one of the city’s most polluted. And for this reason, nature cries for itself.

Work in progress



The Via Collatina, an area which is today considered very much the outskirts of the city and with no link to Rome’s noble history, actually possesses a great deal of connections to it.

One of the most important concerns water and the relationship that the city has always had with it for its survival. The famous Aqua Virgo aqueduct, in fact, began in these parts, near Salone at the eighth mile of the Via Collatina.

The Aqua Virgo – Acqua Vergine or ‘virgin water’ – aqueduct is the only aqueduct that survived the systematic destruction of the ancient pipelines during the barbarian invasions of the 5th century AD. and above all during the Gothic war, as well as the water that feeds the monumental fountains of the historic centre, such as the Trevi Fountain or Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers in Piazza Navona. But these masterpieces were only possible after the restoration of the pipes, which took place many centuries after they had been interrupted – which, it is worth remembering, was the work not only of the invaders but also of the imperial armies who, from within the walls, made “defensive” interruptions of the aqueducts to prevent enemy armies from using them as access routes.

So how did the city’s population manage to live without the aqueducts? The Tiber was the easiest place to turn for a solution, and throughout the Middle Ages, Romans of all social classes were content to drink the decanted water of the river. Its provision was handled by the “acquaricciari” or “acquarenari“, who quenched the city’s thirst with the water of the Tiber after having filtered it of debris (particularly sand) and allowed Rome to carry on through the centuries. This acquaricciari, who disappeared after the old pipes were restored, played such a crucial role in the life of the city that they once had their own church, Sant’Andrea de Aquaricariis, in the Rione Ponte, in whose place we can today visit the well-known Santa Maria della Pace.

Our journey, which began on the Collatina, ends in front of the many sculptural personifications of the Tiber that decorate the city centre, including the statue of Piazza del Campidoglio and those on the banks of the river, in an alchemical itinerary dedicated to water as a source of life and telling at the same time the story of one of Rome’s most most beloved allies.


Nicola Alessandrini

Nicola Alessandrini was born on December 31st 1977 in Macerata. He attended nursery school there in Via Panfilo next to the municipal slaughterhouse, and remembers being in the playground surrounded by the laughter of children and the cries of animals: an unusual mixture of experiences, traces of which we find in his art today. His work, both public and studio, often features invasive and destabilizing images that intertwine science, popular culture, folklore and everyday life.