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Every year, the more than €1 million in coins thrown into the Trevi Fountain in Rome are hoovered up to feed, clothe, and house the city’s poor.
Completed in 1762, the marble marvel is one of the Eternal City’s most popular attractions. Commissioned in the 1730s by Nicola Salvi, it depicts the taming of waters.
Oceanus the sea god is pulled by a shell chariot of seahorses, all around which lie shells, coral, fishes, and other sea-things.
Normally it’s a tourist madhouse, taking up a third of the space in the already small Piazza di Trevi. Visitors arrive in throngs, and many hope to do more than see the spectacular artwork.
Tradition has it that tourists put their back to the fountain and toss a coin over their left shoulder with their right hand—an act which supposedly guarantees they shall return to the Eternal City.
The tradition was born from the 1954 film Three Coins in the Fountain about three American women living in Rome who wish upon the Trevi for love in the city.
Three Coins in the Fountain. Fair Use.
Well over €1 million is thrown into its waters every year, which is collected by sweeping all the coins together and then using a suction machine to gather them up.
Caritas, a charity managed by the Catholic church, receives this massive windfall, for which they fund soup kitchens, homeless shelters, free supermarkets and other projects.
It also goes towards the upkeep of a complex on the outskirts of Rome housing a nursing home, canteen and dental office for city residents living in poverty.