The deep meaning of Rome’s ‘Three Coins in the Fountain’ contretemps

Crux | 1/13/2019 | Staff
Micaella (Posted by) Level 3
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Anyone who’s ever been to Rome on holiday - for that matter, anyone who’s ever seen movies such as “Three Coins in the Fountain” - knows what you’re supposed to do at the city’s famed Trevi Fountain. You toss in a coin and make a wish, hoping that good fortune will be yours.

Last year, roughly $1.7 million worth of coins was tossed into the fountain. What people performing that traditional act may not have known is that since 2001, the proceeds have gone to fund the Catholic Church’s charitable activity in the city, through an arrangement among the city government, the power company ACEA that administers the fountain, and Caritas, the Church’s charitable arm.

Caritas - Money - Service - City - Soup

Caritas uses the money for direct service to the city’s poor, including soup kitchens, temporary shelters and housing for impoverished families. The amount accounts for roughly 15 percent of Caritas’s annual charitable budget.

As of April 1, however, that will no longer be the case.

Rome - City - Government - Populist - Star

Rome’s current city government led by the left-wing populist “Five Star” movement under Mayor Virginia Raggi has decided to take back the funds, using them to pay ACEA’s bill to maintain the fountain as well as “social projects” and “routine maintenance of cultural patrimony.”

Rome is perpetually broke - in 2016, public debt was estimated at a staggering $14 billion - and the move with the Trevi Fountain is a small part of a larger effort to find new sources of cash.

Years - Personnel - ACEA - Coins - Fountain

For the past 17 years, what’s happened is that personnel from ACEA have periodically emptied the coins out of the fountain and placed them in sacks, which are turned over to officials from Caritas in the presence of city police. Caritas workers then dry them off, count them, and deposit them in the bank. Three times a year, Caritas has furnished the city an...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Crux
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