To avoid confusion and unwanted results, please use these simple rules when throwing coins into the Trevi fountain:

1. Throw 1 (one) coin if you merely wish to return to Rome.

2. Throw 2 (two) coins if you seek a new romantic encounter, possibly resulting in marriage.

3. Throw 3 (three) coins if you want your marriage to end in divorce.

4. If you can’t quite figure out what you want, just throw all the coins you have in your pockets into the water. The coins from the Trevi fountain are regularly collected by the city of Rome. All euros are generally used to support a food bank for the poor. Foreign currency coins are donated to the Red Cross.

Now, some people will tell you that you also need to drink from the fountain prior to tossing the coins. In fact, you are supposed to drink from it using your left hand and then throw your pieces of copper or silver over the left shoulder. Well, that’s just superstition! But it does seem that the original custom only involved drinking from the fountain and no coins were involved. Today’s practice is much safer.

Lastly, you may rest assured that this tradition is of ancient origin (well, as old as the fountain itself, perhaps). There is ample evidence that in the 19th century the custom was fully established and well known. Henry Tyrell described the legendary powers of Rome’s most famous water feature in a story published by The American Magazine in 1893:

Our little banquet had lasted until after ten. Then, the night being fine, Alfredo and his friends had proposed going home for their mandolins and making up a serenading party. I had declined the invitation to accompany them, being in the pensive mood naturally awakened by the approaching severance of those tender ties which Rome somehow throws around every sympathetic heart, however brief the acquaintance may be. The acque vergine, the sweet waters of Trevi fountain, possessed an ancient charm, which it is pleasant to believe still potent: whosoever, before his departure, shall bethink him to come by moonlight, drink of the gushing stream, and throw a coin into the pool, may confidently hope some day to return to the Eternal City. This rite I desired devoutly to fulfill.

. . .

The night was sultry and still. Moonlight flooded the sky, but was tempered by haze to a warm violet mist, which heightened the phantasmal aspect of Rome in shadow. The smoke of my Virginia blended with it, and seemed to fill the atmosphere with opiate fragrance.

The tinkling and murmur of cool waters fell gratefully upon my senses, as I emerged into the open space before the antique Trevi, the most fantastic and beautiful fountain in the world, with its rushing cascade, its Tritons and river gods, its rocks and grottoes and shimmering pool, and the facade of a stately old palace for a background.

The Italian cigar, though not without a certain aroma, was undeniably strong. My head began to grow light and my feet heavy. Clambering over the low stone barrier, I seated myself in a cozy nook among the dry rocks, close beside the dancing water. Then I took a double lira from my pocket, and flung it into the middle of the black basin, making a splash like vivid quicksilver.

Emilia had told me how the gamins of the neighborhood came in the morning to fish out the coins thrown in the water overnight by wandering- wilted forestieri like myself. I smiled at the thought that on the morrow they might enjoy the sensation of finding at least one piece of silver amongst the coppers. Ah, what delight would be mine, that some day in the vague future, to come back to Rome and tell my fin-de-siede madonna of the Via Sistina how perfectly the charm had worked! Even now, it seemed, I could see her looking over my shoulder, her face reflected beside mine in the troubled mirror of the pool.

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Giosuè Carducci (1835 – 1907), the main figure of the Italian Neo-Classical movement, remains arguably  the most recognized modern poet in Italy. In 1906 he became the first Italian author to receive the Nobel Prize in literature. Carducci’s poem “Rome,” part of  his Levia Gravia cycle,  is given here in Italian followed by G. A. Greene’s poetic translation.


Date al vento le chiome, isfavillanti
Gli occhi glauchi, del sen nuda il candore,
Salti su ’l cocchio; e l’impeto e il terrore
Van con fremito anelo a te d’avanti.

L’ombra del tuo cimier l’aure tremanti,
Come di ferrugigno astro il bagliore,
Trasvola; e de le tue ruote al fragore
Segue la polve de gl’imperi infranti.

Tale, Roma, vedean le genti dome
La imagin tua ne’ lor terrori antichi:
Oggi una mitra a le regali chiome,

Oggi un rosario che la man t’implichi
Darti vorrien per sempre. Oh ancor del nome
Spauri il mondo e i secoli affatichi!


Once with thy locks upon the wind outspread,
Breast bare, and sea-blue eyes afire for war,
Thou didst the chariot urge; – before thee far
Panic and fear with panting breath had fled:

The shadows of the helm upon thine head,
Like the fierce dazzle of an iron star,
Outran the winds; behind thy swift-wheeled car
Hovered the dust of trampled empires dead.

Great Rome! the nations vanquished by thy fame
Saw thus thine image in their ancient fears:
To-day thy regal locks a mitre’s shame

Dishonours; in thy hand bedewed with tears
The beads of prayer !—O once more with thy name
Affright the world and free the wearied years!

(Levia Gravia, ii. 28.)


See also:
What to do at the Trevi fountain. Simple rules for visitors.

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Seven Hills of Rome

April 9, 2011

Here are some images of the famous Seven Hills of Rome. You will need to go two levels down to see the large  images. There are two images of the Esquiline hill, in case you’re wondering why the seven hills are represented by eight pictures… The time period of the images, judging from the Romanticist […]

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All roads lead to Rome

March 27, 2011

All roads may or may not lead to Rome, but the very notion that this saying is in fact an Italian proverb… well, that’s a misconception. The origin of this phrase can be traced to the medieval French poet Alain de Lille (c. 1128–1202) who famously wrote at the time when the city of Rome […]

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