Alessio and Francesca Sacchi couldn't believe their luck when they stumbled across 41 million lire – worth about €20,000 in today's value – in the cellar of a house they bought at auction in 2011.
"We were so surprised, we never imagined we would find something like that," Francesca told The Local.
"We found a sort of cavity in the cellar, and inside there was a old case with the money inside."
The couple paid €250,000 for the sprawling property in the outskirts of Bologna, which had been abandoned for years.
After trying to track down the previous owner, they turned to the Bank of Italy to exchange the cash, only to be told it was "waste paper".
They had just missed the December 2011 deadline, brought forward by a few months under Mario Monti's government, for the old currency to be converted.
"It's an injustice and we want to try and get the rule changed," Sacchi added, pointing to other EU states, including Germany and Ireland, where no deadline has been set for the conversion of currency replaced by the euro in 2002.
In fact, Italy had the strictest deadline although Finland, France and Greece were just a year behind.
Sacchi is undeterred by the legal costs and Italy's slow justice system in her efforts to get the central bank to resume exchanging lire, even though she admits it will be a fight she's unlikely to win.
"We want to try – we've been told there are many others in the same situation – and if we fail, we'll give the notes to collectors."
Indeed, they are not alone in having their dreams of a windfall dashed but they are thought to be the first couple to take on the central bank.
Earlier this year, a call centre worker discovered 100 million lire – worth over €51,000 – in a safe at the home she inherited from her uncle.