It's one of the most popular attractions in the world, but a tourist tradition has sparked a major row which highlights Rome's big problems.

It is one of the world's most popular and Instagrammable tourist attractions, but a row over Rome's iconic Trevi Fountain points to a big problem with Italy's capital, reports.

Hordes of tourists constantly mob the 18th-century masterpiece for their very own La Dolce Vita moment — and legend has it that if you adhere to a very specific tradition then you will return to Rome at some point in your life.

Millions of tourists visit the landmark every year. Photo / Getty Images
Millions of tourists visit the landmark every year. Photo / Getty Images

The legend has millions of visitors throwing their hard-earned change — specifically using their right hands to launch it over their left shoulders — into the 300-year-old fountain every day.


Since 2001, this money has been scooped out of the fountain three times a week, sorted, and donated to Caritas — a not-for-profit organisation run by the Catholic Church that provides food to the poor and homeless of Rome.
However, the tradition, which rakes in more than $2.4m for the city's needy each year, could be raided by the city council to fix the capital's plethora of problems.

Rome has been plagued with an embarrassing catalogue of issues, ranging from exploding buses, a rotten stench wafting over the city from mismanaged rubbish collections and gaping potholes which are so bad they've left hundreds of Romans with injuries.

Earlier this month, the head of the Rome's Association of School Principals warned that schools would need to be closed if the city didn't improve rubbish collection, which was made worse by a fire last month which destroyed one of the main incinerators — leaving a rancid smell hanging over the city.

Populist and anti-Establishment Five Star Movement politician, Virginia Raggi, who became Rome's first female mayor in 2016 floated the idea to use the Trevi Fountain coin collection to fix the problems and, this week, the controversial move looked as if it had finally been given the green light.

Councillors approved it and the reallocation of funds from soup kitchens for the homeless to fixing the crumbling city was due to begin April.

The move has ignited a fierce row between the council and the Catholic Church, which says the political move will decimate the city's sizeable homeless population.

Avvenire, an Italian newspaper affiliated to the Catholic Church, hit out at Mayor Raggi — saying the money is vital in funding soup kitchens, social assistance programs and a homeless centre.

Rome's mayor Virginia Raggi appears to have backtracked on the council's decision. Photo / Getty Images
Rome's mayor Virginia Raggi appears to have backtracked on the council's decision. Photo / Getty Images

"We did not foresee this outcome. I still hope it will not be final," Caritas director Father Benoni Ambarus told the newspaper — which ran a story this week headlined: "Money taken from the poorest".


The charity also hit out on social media, saying the mayor should reverse her decision, and adding it provides "5000 volunteers, 300 social workers and 145 catholic centres" to help the city's poor.

Despite council approval, Mayor Raggi appeared to backflip on the decision after days of backlash on social media.

"I confirm that (the coins) will remain available to the charitable activities of the diocesan body," she told L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, earlier this week. "No one has ever thought of depriving Caritas of these funds."

The Trevi fountain is visited by millions of tourists every year and the tradition of throwing coins was made famous by Frank Sinatra'ssong Three Coins in the Fountain.

The song featured in the award-winning 1954 romantic comedy of the same name and the landmark also featured in the 1960 film La Dolce Vita — inwhich actress Anita Ekberg waded through its water.