Visitors admiring the Trevi Fountain in Rome, Source: Unsplash

Trevi Fountain fills up with 1.5 m euros a year, but what happens to all that cash?

Trevi Fountain fills up with 1.5 m euros a year, but what happens to all that cash?

The city has devised a whole process of collecting the funds and channelling them to charity

When in Rome, there’s a visitors’ tradition that states to throw a coin over your shoulder into the Trevi Fountain as a way to ensure that one day you will return to the Italian capital. And who doesn’t love a good ritual? Apparently, everyone loves it so much that the Baroque fountain receives as much as 3,000 euros daily in change. Cumulatively, this adds up to 1.5 million euros a year!

But what happens with all that money? Wouldn’t other people be tempted to fish it out of the waters? It seems that they did, so back in 2001, the then-mayor of Rome decreed that the change will be collected by the Municipality and then given to charity.

More specifically, the funds go to the Catholic organization Caritas, working up to 15% of its annual budget. Regularly, specially designated employees collect the coins with brush poles and a suction hose, while police officers stay on guard nearby.

The attraction that charges its own fee

Recently, Roman authorities decided to introduce an entrance fee for visitors to the Pantheon, another one of its iconic historic attractions. The argument was that this would allow better funding for the conservation and maintenance efforts of the site. It has been described as a controversial move since the temple is also a functioning church and thus it goes against the wishes of the Catholic authorities to keep its access open to religious people.

With Trevi Fountain, though, that fund-raising issue has never been the case. The custom of coin tossing arose organically and was even immortalized in the 1950s Hollywood flick Three Coins in the Fountain.

Still, it hasn’t been a smooth ride to the free cash, as people still do attempt to collect the coins that others toss in. According to an ordinance though, once the coin ends in the fountains, it becomes city property, so taking it out is considered theft.

That’s why, the authorities were forced to put up policemen near the fountain, as well as a barrier that prevents people from sitting and getting in the water. During Mayor Virginia Raggi’s tenure, in 2019, there was also a spat between municipal and church authorities as to what to do with the money, with the mayor wishing to use them for heritage maintenance.

Caritas, however, uses the money to help the city’s poor and needy. It funds soup kitchens, homeless shelters, free supermarkets and other projects. And that itself has become as much a beloved tradition as the actual coin tossing.



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