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Tourists throw their coins in the Trevi Fountain in Rome, Wednesday, June 7, 2017.
Tourists throw their coins in the Trevi Fountain in Rome, Wednesday, June 7, 2017.
Gregorio Borgia—AP

It's no novel idea to toss a coin into a fountain and make a wish, but there's something particularly romantic about doing so at the Trevi Fountain in Rome.

The legend comes from the 1950s Academy Award-winning film "Three Coins in the Fountain": Throw a coin into the famed Fontana di Trevi, regarded as the most beautiful Baroque fountain in all of Italy, and you'll one day return to visit Rome.

Toss in two more coins and you'll be met with new romance and, eventually, a beautiful Roman wedding.

It may seem a silly tourist attraction, but millions of visitors flock to the 18th-century landmark each year to partake in the tradition. In fact, the fountain fills up so quickly that Rome's city workers sweep its floor every night to collect the day's loot.

Throughout 2016 they collected $1.5 million, according to NBC News, money that has long been sent to Caritas, a Catholic nonprofit that supports causes around the world related to health, disaster relief, poverty, and migration.



Keep reading to learn more about the fountain's history, how the coins are collected, and what the money is used for.

  • Originally designed by Nicola Salvi and completed in 1762 by Giuseppe Pannini, the Trevi Fountain took three decades to build and measures 85 feet high by 165 feet wide. The name comes from the three streets — "tre vie," in Italian — that lead to the fountain: Via Dei Crocicchi, Via Poli, and Via Delle Muratte.
  • The fountain was recently given a $2.2 million makeover, funded by the Italian fashion brand Fendi, that took 18 months to complete. LED lighting was added, and the marble facade, which depicts the mythological figures Ocean, Health, and Abundance, was restored.
  • Municipal workers scrub the floor of the fountain daily to collect visitors' discarded coins, which averaged thousands of dollars a day in 2016.
  • The collected coins are cleaned, weighed, counted, and delivered to Caritas, an International Catholic nonprofit. The organization has used the money for numerous charitable initiatives, including building a grocery store for the poor and supporting a shelter for AIDS patients.
  • Back in 2005, Getty Images reported that about $600,000 a year was collected from the fountain. By 2016, that number had more than doubled to $1.5 million.
  • Thieves would remove coins from the fountain daily until Rome's city council passed a law deeming it illegal to do so. As a result, a Caritas representative said, the charity saw a 20% to 30% increase in the money it received from 2010 to 2012.
  • But money isn't the only thing gleaned from the fountain. "Among the coins often we find other objects, including glasses, religious medals, and even a couple of dentures," the Caritas representative told NBC News.
  • On your next visit to Rome — which was recently named the best place to visit in the world by US News & World Report — consider tossing your spare change into the Trevi Fountain. While your wish may not come true, know that your money will end up in good hands.

This story originally appeared on Business Insider.