A Canadian woman said “sorry” to Italian officials, and whatever gods are watching from on high, after enduring 15 years of bad luck that she blames on the artifacts she stole from the ruins of Pompeii.
The woman, who identified herself only as “Nicole,” recently sent mosaic tiles, pottery shards and a piece of wall back to a travel agency in Pompeii, along with a letter of apology for taking them in the first place. The agency later forwarded the package to police.
Nicole says she was “young and dumb” when she swiped the artifacts during a visit to the famous ruins in 2005.
“I wanted to have a piece of history that couldn’t be bought,” she wrote in the letter, which was published in Italy’s Il Messaggero newspaper. The letter reportedly had a Canadian stamp and no return address.
The tourist says she got more than she bargained for with her souvenirs, and blamed the “negative energy” of the devastated city for her own colossal string of misfortunes.
“Bad luck is something that has plagued my family and myself ever since,” she wrote. “I am now 36 and have had breast cancer twice, the last time resulting in a double mastectomy.”
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Nicole added that she and her family have struggled through financial woes since 2005, and they “can’t seem to ever get ahead in life.”
“We are good people and I don’t want to pass this curse on to my family, my children or myself anymore,” she wrote. Nicole apologized for her “careless act” and asked “the gods” to forgive her by lifting the “curse” hanging over her.
“I really have learned my lesson,” she wrote.
Pompeii was destroyed nearly 2,000 years ago when the nearby Mount Vesuvius — a volcano — suddenly erupted on Aug. 24, 79 AD. The volcano showered Pompeii and neighbouring Herculaneum with fiery pumice and volcanic ash, killing thousands of people. The cataclysm buried many of those victims, immortalizing their final moments on Earth.
Many of those tragic statues remain at the Pompeii site today, where thousands of tourists flock each day to explore the ruined city.
Officials at Pompeii have long struggled to prevent tourists from chipping off pieces of the buildings and snatching tiny artifacts from the site.
Nicole admits in her letter that she shared one of her tell-tale tiles with a friend, and she told that friend she would be sending the artifacts back.
Italian police say they received a separate package from a couple connected to Nicole shortly after the first one arrived, according to Il Messaggero. The package contained more artifacts and an apology from the pair, who say they took the items during a visit in 2005.
“We are sorry and please forgive us for making this terrible choice! May their souls rest in peace,” the letter said. It was signed “Alastain and Kimberly G.,” according to reports.
It’s not the first time a guilt-ridden tourist has returned an ill-gotten artifact from the city. More than 100 packages have turned up at the Pompeii archeological offices in recent years, along with various letters from thieves citing a “curse” or simply admitting their guilt.
Site superintendent Massimo Osanna assembled these letters for an exhibit in 2015, in an effort to show how attitudes toward looting historical objects have changed. He said the confessional letters are more valuable than the actual objects that people take, which are largely worthless.
“They write that the stolen pieces have brought them nothing but trouble,” Osanna told Corriere Della Sera in 2015. “They say they can trace back all their family troubles to their theft at Pompeii.”
It’s unclear if the Canadian thieves will face charges in connection with the latest batch of returned relics. However, Nicole did say she would like to go back to Italy for a bit of closure.
“One day I will return to your beautiful country to apologize in person,” she wrote.
She didn’t specify whether she would be apologizing to the Italian authorities — or to the ancient Roman gods said to be behind the “curse.”