Seeking La Dolce Vita? G20 leaders toss coins into Rome's Trevi fountain

G20 summit in Rome

ROME (Reuters) - World leaders tossed coins into Rome's Trevi Fountain on Sunday - some doubtless seeking happiness - in a tradition for visitors to the Italian capital that dates back hundreds of years.

Legend says that if you throw a coin by the right hand over the left shoulder into the fountain, you will return to Rome.

Most of the leaders taking part in the photo opportunity on the sidelines of a summit of the Group of 20 world's largest economies just tossed the coin over their right shoulder.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi, who lives in Rome, stayed motionless, while U.S. President Joe Biden skipped the event.

"Tradition says tossing a coin into Trevi Fountain ensures a return to Rome. But going through my mind was the need for the world to return to the way it was pre-COVID19," World Health Organization head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus wrote on Twitter.

The leaders were handed one euro coins specially minted for the occasion, showing Leonardo da Vinci's Vetruvian man, the symbol of Italy's G20 presidency, portrayed on the flip side.

The Trevi Fountain, completed in 1762, covers the entire facade of Palazzo Poli in central Rome with its statues of Tritons guiding the shell chariot of the god Oceanus illustrating the theme of the taming of the waters.

The fountain is where the late director Federico Fellini set one of the most famous scenes in cinema in "La Dolce Vita", with Anita Ekberg wading into the fountain after midnight and beckoning Marcello Mastroianni to join her.

In the song "Three Coins in the Fountain", crooner Frank Sinatra sang of "each one seeking happiness" and asks "which one will the fountain bless?".

Coins worth about one million euro ($1.16 million) are thrown into the basin by tourists each year. All the money goes to a charity that helps the city's needy.

($1 = 0.8650 euros)

(Writing by Angelo Amante; Editing by Crispian Balmer and Angus MacSwan)