Italy’s culture and tourism ministers have vowed to find and punish a tourist who was filmed carving his name and that of his apparent girlfriend in the wall of the Colosseum in Rome, a crime that resulted in hefty fines in the past.
Video of the incident went viral on social media. The message reading “Ivan+Haley 23” appeared on the Colosseum at a time when residents already were complaining about hordes of tourists flooding the Eternal City in record numbers this season.
Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano called the writing carved into the almost 2,000-year-old Flavian Ampitheater “serious, undignified and a sign of great incivility.” He said he hoped the culprits would be found “and punished according to our laws.”
Italian news agency ANSA noted that the incident marked the fourth time this year that such graffiti was reported at the Colosseum. It said whoever was responsible for the latest episode risked $15,000 in fines and up to five years in prison.
Tourism Minister Daniela Santanche said she hoped the tourist would be sanctioned “so that he understands the gravity of the gesture.” Calling for respect for Italy’s culture and history, she vowed: “We cannot allow those who visit our nation to feel free to behave in this way.”
In 2014, a Russian tourist was fined 20,000 euros ($25,000) and received a four-year suspended jail sentence for engraving a big letter ‘K’ on a wall of the Colosseum.
The following year, two American tourists were also cited for aggravated damage after they carved their names in the monument.
Italian tourism lobby Federturismo, backed by statistics bureau ISTAT, has said 2023 is shaping up as a record for visitors to Italy, surpassing pre-pandemic levels that hit a high in 2019.
Outside the Colosseum on Tuesday, visitors called for such monuments to be protected and preserved.
“There is a rich history here. It helps us learn from the past,” Diego Cruz, an American student, said.
Güldamla Ozsema, a computer engineer visiting from Turkey, said his country also had difficulty protecting its monuments from disrespectful tourists.
“I really get angry with them, with this behavior,” Ozsema said.
The Associated Press