The Pianoscarano neighborhood of Viterbo in Central Italy has a huge fountain that acts as a central gathering place and transit point. A gaggle of old men is ever present, sitting on one side of the piazza in the morning, and on the other in the evening—following the day’s shade. Perhaps it's always been that way, or at least since the fountain was built in 1376.
Surprisingly, a plaque on a nearby wall tells a terrible story of an even earlier fountain on the same spot. In 1367, this piazza was turned upside down when a servant of the visiting Pope Urbano V of Avignon (who was passing through the old Papal town) walked up to the old fountain and plopped his little dog in for a bath. A woman waiting in line to access the water screamed in protest—insulted by the French visitor. The locals, for whom this was their primary source of drinking water, went crazy, resulting in a riot between the residents and a number of the Pope’s men. Soon more Viterbo citizens joined the fight, as did more of the Pope’s soldiers.
When fighting finally ceased, the original protesting woman lay dead and the leaders of the neighborhood rebellion were arrested (later to be killed). The fountain that stood here was completely destroyed as punishment for the rebellion.
In the two evenings that I drew in the piazza, I was a more welcome and polite guest. A friendly woman who recognized me from the internet (I draw in Viterbo yearly) brought me a bottle of cold water. People with dogs passed by watching and smiling. Being a student of history, I did not clean my paint brushes in the fountain.