Trevi fountain rules – one, two or three coins?

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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