Visitors threw $1.5 million into Rome’s Trevi Fountain last year – here’s where all those coins go?

6. The fountain is charitable

When the fountain is open roughly €3,000 is thrown into it every day as people follow the tradition of throwing coins over their shoulders. The legend holds that a coin thrown into the fountain will ensure a return to Rome. This tradition also dates back to the ancient Romans who often threw coins in water to make the gods of water favor their journey or help them get back home safely. (Throw in a second coin if you’re seeking love – even a third for wedding bells!)

What many don’t know is that the coins are collected every night and given to an Italian charity called Caritas. Caritas, in turn, use the money for a supermarket program giving rechargeable cards to Rome’s needy to help them get groceries.

7. It’s a crime to steal the coins from the Trevi

Perhaps for just that reason, it’s illegal to fish out coins from the fountain. In the past it was common for gangs of thieves to sweep the coins out of the fountain at night. In fact, three were caught by a T.V. show using a hidden camera in 2011. The most famous raider, however, was known by his nickname, d’Artagnan. He stole the coins from the fountain for 34 years before he was caught in the summer of 2002.

8. The white stone fountain has been black…and red.

In 1996 the fountain was turned off and draped in black crepe to honor actor Marcello Mastroianni after his death. Mastroianni starred in La Dolce Vita, a movie whose most famous scene was filmed in the Trevi Fountain, making the fountain more famous than ever.

In 2007 the fountain wore a different color after a vandal dumped a liquid substance into the fountain turning the water red. This caused water that fell from the fountain to be red as well, since it uses a closed circuit water system. While there was a fear that the liquid would have permanently damaged the monument, the water was drained fast enough that there was no damage, only a crowd of very surprised tourists!

9. This famous fountain is famous on film too!

A famed sight for tourists from throughout the world, the Trevi Fountain is quite the stage prop as well! Besides La Dolce Vita, when Anita Ekberg jumped into the Trevi Fountain with her clothes on, the massive monument has been featured in many films including Roman HolidayThree Coins in the Fountain and even The Lizzie McGuire Movie. The fountain is even replicated at Epcot in Walt Disney World!


If you’ve ever visited Rome, you’ve probably heard that the best way to ensure a return visit is by using your right hand to toss a coin over your left shoulder and into the Trevi Fountain. Whether or not you believe in the legend, plenty of people have given it a try—enough that nearly $1.5 million in loose change was dropped into the iconic landmark last year alone.

So just where does all that pocket change go? To charity. “The [city] council hands over to us bags full of coins thrown into the fountain,” Alberto Colajacomo, spokesman for Caritas, the nonprofit Catholic organization that receives and reinvests the loot, told NBC News. And it’s more than just coins. “Among the coins often we find other objects, including glasses, religious medals, and even a couple of dentures,” Colajacomo said.

Originally opened in 1762, the Trevi Fountain is one of Rome’s most recognizable sites (it has made memorable appearances in movies like Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita and William Wyler’s Roman Holiday, too).

Thanks to the fashionable folks at Fendi, it recently underwent a major renovation to restore its facade and add some LED lights and other modern features. It’s also a popular venue for getting arrested; just this week, a man was put into handcuffs for taking a naked dip in the fountain in front of a crowd of amused onlookers. More often, people get into trouble for treating the fountain like their personal piggybank, which is against the law, so you’ll want to refrain from trying to fish your coin back out. Your dentures, however, are another story.

The fountain at the junction of three roads (tre vie)[3] marks the terminal point[4] of the “modern” Acqua Vergine, the revived Aqua Virgo, one of the aqueducts that supplied water to ancient Rome. In 19 BC, supposedly with the help of a virgin, Roman technicians located a source of pure water some 13 km (8.1 mi) from the city. (This scene is presented on the present fountain’s façade.) However, the eventual indirect route of the aqueduct made its length some 22 km (14 mi). This Aqua Virgo led the water into the Baths of Agrippa. It served Rome for more than 400 years.[5]

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