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For 34 years a man collected $1000 a day by picking up coins from Rome’s Trevi Fountain

It’s estimated that 3000 euros are thrown into Rome’s Trevi Fountain every day. But where does all the money go? Well for over 30 years, a fair chunk went to one crafty man.

The massive baroque structure is considered a symbol of romance in popular culture, thanks in part to its iconic appearances in the Academy Award winning films Roman Holiday and La Dolce Vita.

Legend holds that whoever tosses a coin into its water is bound to return. But you can’t throw the coin just any way though, there is a certain technique to it; one has to toss the coin with the right hand over the left shoulder.

When in Rome…

Every day, thousands of tourists from all around the globe visit the fountain to perform the ritual. For many, the superstition is a token of goodwill. But for a few, it means easy money.

Roberto Cercelletta, an unemployed man, paid daily visits to the Italian landmark from 1968 until 2002. Under the cover of the early morning darkness, and armed with a rake and a sword-like magnet, Cercelletta managed to collect up to $US1000 per day.

Most surprisingly, the police were happy to turn a blind eye to his activities, until the media reported the story of Cercelletta’s income in 2002, essentially forcing police to arrest him the next time he was caught in the act.

“I have no right, but I have been doing this for 34 years,” he was quoted as saying in the New York Times.

Italy has laws that protect city monuments from pillage, but judges never found a legal basis to charge Cercelletta. His activities weren’t considered theft either, since the money was “technically” nobody’s property.

The old bum – nicknamed D’Artagnan, because of his once wavy black hair and dazzling beard – passed away in 2013, having reentered the fountain once more, in 2011, in what was reported to be a protest against his unemployment.

About the author

Filmmaker. 3D artist. Procrastination guru. I spend most of my time doing VFX work for my upcoming film Servicios Públicos, a sci-fi dystopia about robots, overpopulated cities and tyrant states. @iampineros

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