Italians, it seems, just can’t keep themselves from wading into one of Rome’s most noteworthy monuments, the Trevi Fountain.
No, it’s not some cult devoted to prodigiously buxom Swedish babes, it’s because foreigners stand at the rim of the 245-year-old fountain and toss money into it for good luck.
A lot of money: It’s estimated that the most famous culler, Roberto Cercelletta, bagged about $1,800 a day for 15 minutes of rooting around in the gelid waters very early in the morning.
Cercelletta, however, was banned from going near the fountain in 2002, and the daily deluge of cents, yen and pounds started going to Catholic charity Caritas.
That is, until the other day, when two men jumped right into the baroque waterworks, fully clothed and with a metal detector, at 10:30 p.m. It was a clumsy operation and the Italians were nabbed by police as they tried to get away with pockets loaded down by coins.
No, it’s not that these are the only two people who don’t know the oft-sputtering Bel Paese economy has taken a surprise upturn. Italians will keep being tempted to reach out and take the money lying there in the fountain, because, well, it would seem stupid not to.
It’s difficult to find a satisfactory translation for the word furbo: It can mean savvy and sly, smart and dodgy, sometimes with a negative connotation but often times not.
For example, it is better to be considered furbo than have to call someone who gets the better of you in love or war as furbo. Italians interested in reforms try to stop the furbi — from tax cheaters to line cutters and the like — but the feeling is one must be constantly on the lookout to curb this tendency.
What an American would consider a question of civility — leave the donated money where it lies — to an Italian seems a lot of hypocritical posturing: If the money is just sitting there, why not reach out and take it?
It’s a hard concept to learn, culturally, especially because there are just two sides to the issue. You choose: better to be furbo or fesso (sucker, stupid)?
A no-brainer, really. Where are my rain boots?