Rome to pocket coins from Trevi Foun­tain

Mayor wants tourist cash used for city projects

National Post (Latest Edition) - - NEWS - JOSEPHINE MCKENNA

ROME • Throw a coin over your shoul­der into Rome’s Trevi Foun­tain, the leg­end says, and it will bring you good for­tune and you will one day re­turn to the Eter­nal City.

It is an es­sen­tial tra­di­tion for mil­lions of tourists. But few will have sus­pected their loose change would also lead to a row be­tween Rome’s sec­u­lar au­thor­i­ties and the Catholic Church.

The 1.5 mil­lion eu­ros ($2.3 mil­lion) of coins scooped out of the stun­ning Baroque foun­tain each year are des­tined for the Catholic char­ity Car­i­tas to help the city’s poor and home­less.

Now Vir­ginia Raggi, Rome’s mayor, says the $6,000 worth of coins tossed into the foun­tain ev­ery day be­long to her ad­min­is­tra­tion. From April 1, the do­na­tions will no longer be paid to Car­i­tas but are to be used by Rome city coun­cil for the main­te­nance of cul­tural sites and wel­fare projects.

The pro­posed changes, re­port­edly ap­proved by the coun­cil at the end of De­cem­ber, have pro­voked a back­lash from the Church.

Avvenire, the daily paper pro­duced by the Ital­ian Bish­ops’ Con­fer­ence, launched an at­tack on the coun­cil in its Satur­day edi­tion, de­scrib­ing the city’s bu­reau­cracy as “the en­emy of the poor” in a front-page ar­ti­cle head­lined “money taken from the poor­est.”

Car­i­tas con­firmed that the changes would take ef­fect from April even though it was still hop­ing the coun­cil would back down. “We did not fore­see this out­come. I still hope it is not fi­nal,” Fa­ther Benoni Am­barus, di­rec­tor of Car­i­tas Rome, told Avvenire.

Car­i­tas said it had re­ceived an out­pour­ing of sup­port from politi­cians, cler­ics and jour­nal­ists who sup­ported its work and were op­posed to the move. But there was also a strong re­ac­tion on Twit­ter from those who said the church had no right to the do­na­tions.

It is not the first time the coun­cil has sought to get its hands on the coins do­nated to Car­i­tas. The plan was first mooted in late 2017 by the cash-strapped city coun­cil, led by Raggi, from the pop­ulist Five Star Move­ment. But the pro­posal was de­layed for a year fol­low­ing wide­spread crit­i­cism.

Car­i­tas, which was founded in Rome in 1971, re­lies on the do­na­tions from the foun­tain to pro­vide help to the city’s home­less and fam­i­lies in fi­nan­cial dif­fi­culty. The tra­di­tion dates back to 2001 and has been con­tin­ued by sub­se­quent city ad­min­is­tra­tions.

The Trevi Foun­tain, which was com­mis­sioned by Pope Cle­ment XII in 1732, was im­mor­tal­ized in Fed­erico Fellini’s 1960 clas­sic film La Dolce Vita, in a scene in which Anita Ek­berg waded into its wa­ters in a black evening dress.

The tra­di­tion of toss­ing a coin in the foun­tain be­gan with the 1954 film, Three Coins in the Foun­tain.

Apart from the furor over the foun­tain, the coun­cil is un­der pres­sure to clean up mount­ing piles of rub­bish and to fix thou­sands of pot­holes in the roads and pave­ments of the city.

Ac­cord­ing to sta­tis­tics, the city has re­ceived 4,500 re­quests for com­pen­sa­tion from driv­ers who claim to have suf­fered in­juries on Rome’s streets.

WE DID NOT FORE­SEE THIS OUT­COME. I STILL HOPE IT IS NOT FI­NAL.

JEFF J. MITCHELL / GETTY IMAGES

Mil­lions of dol­lars in loose change, thrown ev­ery year into Rome’s Trevi Foun­tain by tourists, will now go to the city in­stead of Catholic Church char­i­ties.

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