Last updated: 11:50 AM ET, Mon March 09 2015

US Tourists In Trouble for Defacing Rome’s Colosseum

Destination & Tourism | Michael Isenbek | March 08, 2015

US Tourists In Trouble for Defacing Rome’s Colosseum

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock/Matthew Dixon

Two American women, Californians aged 21 and 25 are in hot water after carving their initials into a wall of Rome’s ancient Colosseum, The Guardian reported. Sneaking away from their tour group Saturday, they inscribed a 3-inch-high “J” and “N,” with a coin, then posed for a selfie with the letters. Quickly caught by police, they were cited for the graffiti, and may have to face a judge, who will impose a penalty.

Signs around the site in English and Italian state the illegality of defacing the ancient gladiatorial arena, completed in 80 AD, with seating for 73,000. The section the duo carved into actually dates back to just the 1800s, part of a restoration commissioned by the pope. “It’s not an original wall but it’s nevertheless antique,” said a spokesman for the Special Superintendency for the Archaeological Heritage of Rome. “There’s a difference in perception,” the spokesman said. “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,” referring to the centuries of disrepair that befell the structure after Rome fell.

Area law enforcement is more concerned with combating terrorism than catching badly-behaving tourists, but staff cuts and the sheer number of visitors means one has to be sacrificed for the other. “The security is not inadequate from the point of view of terrorism, but the shortage of personnel and the great mass of tourists is a problem, also for other sites,” the Superintendency said.

The Californian’s graffiti/selfie escapade comes mere months since a Russian man was caught carving a large letter into the Colosseum, which was reported by TravelPulse’s own Gabe Zaldivar. The individual from Russia was actually the fifth person called on the carpet for such an offense in 2014. The others hailed from such locales as Australia, Brazil and Canada.

Antonio Camertoni, impersonating a Roman centurion outside the Colosseum, told The Guardian point-blank that the tourists were wrong to make the illicit carving. “It’s a piece of cultural heritage. They don’t do it at home, but they do it here,” he said, reflecting that perhaps the site should be closed to tourists completely.

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