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What Happens to the Coins in the Trevi Fountain?

The Trevi fountain in Rome is an iconic tourist hotspot – famed for the act of coin-tossing. But where do those coins actually end up – as there are a vast amount of them?

The Trevi fountain with tourists tossing coins
The Trevi Fountain in Rome. Credit: KarloKolumno from Pixabay

Over 5 million tourists visit Italy’s capital city each year. For those who visit, the chances of you throwing a coin into the iconic Trevi fountain are high. So many tourists visit that the fountain accumulates around 3,000 euros each day. That adds up to an impressive 1.5 million euros a year!

An 18th-century architectural beauty, the Trevi fountain is famed globally for its intricate Baroque design and culturally-rich sculptures. Just as iconic as the fountain itself, the monument’s backdrop – Palazzo Poli – compliments the fountain in the most authentically Italian manner.

Romanticised beginnings of the Trevi fountain

The historic sculptures surrounding the Trevi fountain
Trevi’s Baroque Sculptures. Credit: Dominique Devroye from Pixabay

The Academy Award-winning 1954 romantic comedy film Three Coins in the Fountain and its titular track popularised the now widely adopted act of taking a coin with your right hand and throwing it over your left shoulder. 

Following the coin toss, you are seemingly destined to return to stunning Rome in the future. Almost seven decades on from the movie’s release, Trevi Fountain has few signs of diminishing its mystique as an international tourist attraction. 

Yet many are beginning to wonder what the fate of the coins – in their multitude – is once the coins enter the fountain. Prosperity is promised by merely fishing out great quantities of the coins. So you may wonder whether tourists and locals just sneak the money out of the fountain when it’s not under surveillance. 

Momentous Developments of the Trevi Fountain

Pope Francis in Italy - representing the Trevi fountain clash between church and state
Pope Francis Greets Onlookers. Credit: Annett_Klingner from Pixabay

This was a prominent concern in Rome, and its mayor decided in 2001 to have the coins regularly collected from the Trevi fountain in order to halt any further attempts of theft. Going forward, police officers started getting stationed around the area. While permanent barriers were placed around the monument, all in an effort to divert potential thieves.

The money that was rounded up from the Trevi fountain was subsequently associated with a new tradition. Instead, a focus on bettering the situation of the less affluent, impoverished people of Rome began. A Catholic-led charity is assigned with the community-focused venture. This reflects the nearly 80% of Italians who identify as being Catholic.

Financial assistance primarily comes in the form of funding soup kitchens and homeless shelters. Thus, the Catholic monetary project provides a more meaningful and emotive incentive for travelers to toss their coins into the Trevi fountain than mere luck and superstition. 

Church vs state: how a fountain sparked the feud

A circular staircase at the Vatican - representing the Catholic church which clashed with Rome's mayor about the Trevi fountain's coins
Circular Staircase at the Vatican. Credit: Gary Ullah from Pixabay

But even such charitable acts have prompted periods of controversy and hostility. In 2019, then-Mayor of Rome Virginia Raggi clashed with the Roman Catholic Church regarding how the money should be distributed. 

Rather than permitting church authorities to handle the finances, Mayor Raggi resolutely believed that Rome’s deteriorating infrastructure ought to be the priority instead.

The conflict led to Catholic charities accusing the mayor of disregarding the most economically vulnerable residents of the Italian capital. Eventually, Mayor Raggi conceded. She allowed the money’s distribution to continue to be a charitable effort.

The fountain of environmental discourse

Floods swept through Italy this year - which protesters at the Trevi fountain wanted to highlight
Community Impacted by Floods. Credit: Hermann Traub from Pixabay

Further conflict occurred in 2023 when climate protesters tossed not coins but diluted charcoal into the fountain. This subsequently turned the water black. The mission was simple – to dramatically address the impact of fossil fuels, as well as the devastating floods hitting northern Italy. 

With ongoing disasters and their link to climate change being a constant talking point nowadays, the protesters aimed to draw attention to the prospect of a quarter of Italian homes being at risk from flooding. 

But the city’s officials did not perceive their intentions as being so wholesome. The carbon had contaminated 300,000 litres of water contained within the fountain. 

Environmental concerns are crucial to Gen Z’s ethos. However, more nuanced, practical ventures ought to be thought out in order to progress talks on improving the climate crisis in a productive manner.

Political, environmental and economic disputes have since centered around the fountain during the 21st century – as well as what it ought to represent.

There is, therefore, no denying that the Trevi fountain will forever be associated with huge moments in history – and that’s why its allure is everlasting.

Written By

I am an MLitt Digital Journalism Masters student at Strathclyde University, and a 2.1 graduate of English Literature (MA Hons) at the University of Edinburgh. Engaging for a decade with journalistic writing and reporting, I have been involved with a broad range of media work; from sports journalism and features, to news writing and disability awareness.

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