Rome mayor agrees to keep Trevi Fountain coins going to charity

Mayor Raggi had proposed keeping the coins for the city.

January 14, 2019, 3:18 PM

Rome, Italy -- Each day, some $3,500 in coins are thrown into Rome’s Trevi Fountain by tourists making wishes. This scene, made famous by the 1954 film "Three Coins in the Fountain," has been a windfall for a local charity.

But a leaked document suggesting Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi's administration may want to keep those coins for the city’s empty coffers caused confusion -- and concern from many of the charity's supporters.

After a weekend of social media outrage, Raggi said on Monday that the money will remain with local Catholic charity Caritas Rome, a plan that has been in place since 2001, when then-Mayor Francesco Rutelli put a stop to the unauthorized private collection of coins.

"I confirm that [the coins] will remain available to the charitable activities of the diocesan body," Raggi told L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, in Italian. "No one has ever thought of depriving Caritas of these funds."

For nearly two decades, the city periodically emptied the fountain, bagged the coins and, in the presence of the Rome police, delivered them to the Caritas Rome offices where they were separated, counted and deposited in their bank account.

The money -- about 15 percent of Caritas Rome’s annual budget -- has gone to support soup kitchens, homeless shelters and other projects that help Rome’s poor communities.

PHOTO: A man looks at the Trevi Fountain during a snowfall, in Rome, Feb. 26, 2018.
A man looks at the Trevi Fountain during a snowfall, in Rome, Feb. 26, 2018.
Trisha Thomas/AP, FILE

Raggi’s administration first proposed using the Trevi coins for Rome’s infrastructure and cultural heritage in 2017. But the idea was immediately attacked by opposition politicians and the church and was postponed for a year.

The mayor had called for a meeting at City Hall on Tuesday to finalize a new plan on where the money should be allocated.

In a headline this weekend, The Avvenire, a paper associated with the Italian Catholic Bishops conference, wrote that Raggi's reported plan to keep the coins for the city amounted to "Money Taken from the Poorest."

Caritas Rome posted a statement of gratitude on its Facebook page to all those who have challenged the mayor’s plan to redirect the money from the poor back to the city.

Raggi and her administration, which was elected in 2016, have been under fire for failing to get the city’s finances in order.

Earlier this month, the head of the Association of School Principals warned in a letter to the mayor that schools would need to be closed if the city didn’t improve trash collection –- made worse when a suspicious fire in December destroyed one of the city’s main incinerators.

In October, thousands protested with complaints of poor condition of the Rome streets, an unreliable public transit system and filthy conditions due to piles of uncollected garbage.

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