Two American tourists have been arrested after they were caught carving their initials into a wall of Rome’s Colosseum – and then posing for a selfie with their handiwork.
The unnamed Californian women, aged 25 and 21, used a coin to engrave the initials “J” and “N” around three inches in height and were apprehended on suspicion of causing aggravated damage on a building of historical and artistic interest”, Il Giorno reported.
In a statement reported by La Stampa, the pair said: “We apologise for what we did. We regret it, but we did not imagine it was something so serious. We’ll remember for a lifetime.”
Signs in both English and Italian warn that defacing the walls is strictly forbidden. But vandalism does occur and tourists have been fined as much as $25,000 in the past for such violations. The women could be put before a judge who will decide on whether to impose any penalties.
But a spokesman for the Special Superintendency for the Archaeological Heritage of Rome told The Guardian: “There’s a difference in perception. Museums are treated like churches, sacred places where there are things of great value. Whereas the Colosseum is an incomplete building which has already been robbed.”
Antonio Camertoni, a Roman centurion impersonator told the newspaper: “It’s a piece of cultural heritage. They don’t do it at home, but they do it here.”
The Roman Colosseum was commissioned in AD72 by Emperor Vespasian. It was completed by his son, Titus, in 80. The three-tiered amphitheater was once used for gladiatorial combat.