An unidentified tourist who visited the nearly 2,000-year-old Colosseum in Rome has sparked outrage in Italy after he was filmed carving his name and his apparent girlfriend’s name into a wall at the historic site.
Italy’s culture and tourism ministers have vowed to find and punish the tourist who was seen scratching “Ivan+Haley 23” into one of the Colosseum’s walls.
The incident went viral after Ryan Lutz, a fellow tourist, recorded a video of the man as he etched the words into a brick wall with his keys.
“Are you serious, man?” Lutz asks the misbehaving tourist as he films him. “That’s f—ed up, man.”
The graffiti artist then turns around and flashes a grin to the camera while a woman, possibly the man’s girlfriend, watches beside him.
“Stupid a–hole,” Lutz mutters as he walks away.
The incident comes at a time when Romans are already complaining about hordes of tourists flooding the Eternal City in record numbers this season.
Lutz told The Associated Press on Tuesday he was “dumbfounded” that someone would deface such an important monument.
After taking the video of the person “blatantly carving his name” in the Colosseum wall, Lutz tried to get a guard to take action. He said neither the guard nor his supervisor did anything, even after Lutz identified the man and offered to share the video.
Lutz said he decided to post the video online the following morning, after he had calmed down. While saying he appreciates graffiti and art, “carving your name seems like a pretty selfish act.” He said visitors to foreign countries cannot repay their hosts “with blatant disrespect like this.”
After the story was picked up by Italian media, Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano called the incident “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 euros ($22,000) 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 into the monument.
— With files from The Associated Press