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According to legend, anyone who throws a coin over their shoulder and into the Trevi Fountain guarantees their return to Rome. With thousands of tourists visiting the Eternal City’s most famous water feature everyday, over €1 million is left behind in loose change every year – and now authorities want to help themselves to the funds.
Around €3,000 a day is sucked out of the basin of the Trevi Fountain using a giant vacuum. The money is currently donated to Caritas, a Catholic charity working to end poverty at a grassroots level around the world. In 2016, €1.4 million was tossed into the fountain which helped to subsidise a supermarket for Rome’s poor.
However, with the city facing debts of €13.6 million, Virginia Raggi, Rome’s mayor, is considering stopping the charitable donation and using the funds for ‘social welfare projects’ to be decided by the administration instead.
According to Il Giornale, the decision was actually made in October 2016, but only came to light recently in a memo outlining the plan. Affecting not just the Trevi, funds from all of Rome’s monumental fountains would also be redirected.
It’s likely to be an unpopular move by Raggi who has been criticised for lack of action on the city’s most critical problems such as waste disposal and public transport. Part of the Five Star Movement founded by comedian Beppe Grillo, Raggi came to power in 2016 with promises of transparency and anti-corruption but found herself entangled in a corruption scandal just three months later, leading to a number of her staff resigning.
Earlier this year Raggi devised another moneymaking scheme using Rome’s fountains – introducing on-the-spot fines for anyone caught bathing or dipping their feet in them. This, however was a more welcome decision, coming after a spate of incidents involving tourists and Italians using Rome’s fountains as their own personal playground.
In April, a man skinny-dipped in the Trevi Fountain in front of crowds of tourists – who, of course, filmed the event and shared it on social media. The man was immediately arrested and fined. Soon after, a 25-year old Danish woman, caused a stir when she splashed around in the waters wearing a transparent nightgown.
Other incidents included holidaymakers cooling off their feet in the Fountain of the Two Seas in Piazza Venezia and more nude swimming, this time in Bernini’s baroque Fountain of the Four Rivers in Piazza Navona.
As temperatures drop and tourist numbers dwindle in Rome, it seems the city’s administration is looking for new sources of income.