It’s no novel idea to toss a coin into a fountain and make a wish, but there’s something particularly romantic about doing so at the Trevi Fountain in Rome.
The legend comes from the 1950s Academy Award-winning film “Three Coins in the Fountain”: Throw a coin into the famed Fontana di Trevi, regarded as the most beautiful Baroque fountain in all of Italy, and you’ll one day return to visit Rome.
Toss in two more coins and you’ll be met with new romance and, eventually, a beautiful Roman wedding.
It may seem a silly tourist attraction, but millions of visitors flock to the 18th century landmark each year to partake in the tradition. In fact, the fountain fills up so quickly, Roman city workers sweep its floor every night to collect the day’s loot.
Throughout 2016 they collected $US1.5 million, according to NBC News, which has long been sent to Caritas, a Catholic nonprofit that supports causes around the world related to health, disaster relief, ending poverty, and migration.
Keep reading to learn more about the fountain’s history, how the coins are collected, and what the money is used for.
The fountain was recently given a $2.2 million makeover, funded by Italian fashion brand Fendi, that took 18 months to complete. LED lighting was added, and the marble facade, which depicts mythological figures Ocean, Health, and Abundance, was restored.
Municipal workers scrub the floor of the fountain daily to collect visitors' discarded coins, which averaged thousands of dollars a day in 2016.
The collected coins are cleaned, weighed, counted, and delivered to Caritas, an International Catholic nonprofit. The organisation has used the money for numerous charitable initiatives, including building a grocery store for the poor and supporting a shelter for AIDS patients.
Back in 2005, Getty Images reported that around $600,000 a year was collected from the fountain. In 2016, that number had more than doubled to $1.5 million.
For years, thieves would steal coins from the fountain daily until Rome's city council passed a law deeming it illegal to do so. As a result, a Caritas spokesperson said the charity saw a 20% to 30% increase in the money it received between 2010 and 2012.
But money isn't the only thing gleaned from the fountain. 'Among the coins often we find other objects, including glasses, religious medals, and even a couple of dentures,' the Caritas spokesperson told NBC News.
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