The twin fountains which grace the Piazza Farnese are made up of two ancient basins of grey granite, which, it is thought, come from the Baths of Caracalla.
In 1466 Pope Paul II (r. 1464-71) had the basins placed in Piazza San Marco (today’s Piazza Venezia), to embellish the palace he was having built there. Years later, Pope Paul III (r. 1533-49) had one of the basins removed and placed in the piazza outside his own palace, the Palazzo Farnese. At the time, the piazza was used as a venue for bull-baiting and the basin was employed by the Farnese family as a sort of ‘royal box’.
In 1580 the second basin was moved to Piazza Farnese. The two basins were later turned into fountains, each sporting a stone fleur-di-lys, the heraldic emblem of the Farnese family.