ROME, Italy– Two young tourists from California reportedly used a coin to engrave their initials into a brick wall inside the first floor of Rome’s Coliseum and then proceeded to snap a selfie with a cell phone. Not long after, the two were apprehended by security and taken to the police station.
Security was alerted by a guide who saw what the unnamed women were doing and reported them. When the police arrived they arrested the two—aged 21 and 25—on the charge of “aggravated damage on buildings of historical and artistic interest,” for carving the three-inch-high letters. The incident happened Saturday morning around 10:30 on the west side of the Coliseum.
Rome is no stranger to graffiti, which can be seen all around the city, but the coliseum, or “Flavian Amphitheater,” is one of Rome’s most iconic monuments, recognizable around the world, and Italians take it seriously.
The young women adopted a properly penitent demeanor, telling the police captain: “We apologize for what we did. We are sorry, but we didn’t imagine it was something so serious. We’ll remember for a lifetime.”
This was obviously not the first time that the Coliseum was targeted by vandals. The last in chronological order dates back to last November, when a 42-year-old Russian tourist carved his initial—a large letter K—into the brick, reportedly causing “significant damage.”
In that case as well, police arrested the man for aggravated damage and he was sentenced to four months’ imprisonment (sentence commuted) and a 20,000 euro fine.
Also last year, a 15-year-old Canadian boy on a school trip broke off a piece of the wall and tried to smuggle it out by hiding it in his backpack.
Among the more striking cases is that of a 12-year-old Australian boy surprised about a year ago while engraving his name with the complicity of his father, who stood behind him to shield him from view.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.