clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

This is What Happens to the Coins in the Trevi Fountain

Tourists throw about $25,000 into the Roman landmark per week.

The Trevi Fountain is the 18th-century masterpiece on everyone's list of sites to see and experience when in Rome. The fountain is timeless in so many ways, down to the water that flows through it, which arrives as it always has, through the 2000+-year-old Aqua Virgo aqueduct built by the Ancient Romans.

When at the fountain, you’ll see tourists do what countless visitors have done before them for more than a century: They turn around and toss a coin into the fountain over their shoulder — a wish and a gesture meant to guarantee a return visit to the Eternal City.

Tourists toss coins into the Trevi Fountain to guarantee a return visit to Rome.

Indeed, there has never been a better time to do it. The legendary fountain stands in new magnificence, thanks to a top-to-bottom cleaning and extensive refurbishment completed last year through private sponsorship by the Roman fashion house Fendi. Trevi now shimmers by day and glows from new LED lighting at night.

A rare moment of calm at the always-packed fountain.

Ever wonder what happens to all those wistful tourist coins? They’re put to good use. For so many years now, the monies retrieved from the fountain have been collected, sorted, and donated to Caritas, the non-profit that provides food to the poor and homeless of Rome.

The view from behind the fountain of tourists while Trevi is closed.
Around 9 AM three times a week, the fountain is closed for cleaning and coin collection.

How much money are we talking about? Upwards of €1.2 million per year. Azienda Comunale Energia e Ambiente (ACEA), the company responsible for the maintenance of many of Rome's historic fountains, drains and cleans the fountain every two weeks to monitor pH and chlorine levels in the recycled water. Three times a week, on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, ACEA team extracts coins in the fountain using a rake and a wet-vac. The process begins when they close the fountain between 8 and 9 a.m. They turn off the water, clean up any debris, push the coins into a line, and suction them out of the fountain. The whole process lasts about an hour and a half, and is a sight in itself. The Trevi without throngs of tourists surrounding it is an atypical experience.

Before the coins can be sorted, they are vacuumed and cleaned.

ACEA collects an average of €8,000 every time — more during summer months and on Mondays after the weekend. The money is placed into sacks and consigned to the police, who weigh the sacks and take the coins away for deposit and distribution.

The €1.2 million collected annually is donated to a local charity that helps the homeless and the hungry.

It's a simple, efficient, civic-minded, and generous system. Tourists may be wishing upon their further travels, none the wiser that they’re actually contributing to a healthy future for Rome itself.

The coins tossed in the Trevi Fountain help build a better Rome.

Photos by Darius Arya.


Modern Art in the Ancient World


The Last Man in Town


Ain’t No Party Like a Medieval Party

View all stories in Italy