In the latest chapter of “Tourists Doing Unnecessarily Bad Things,” a couple has caused irreparable damage to the wall of the Colosseum by carving their names into the nearly 2,000 year old building. The Colosseum vandalism, which was caught on video and has subsequently been viewed more than 100,000 times, shows the tourist (presumably named Ivan) scratching what appears to say “Ivan + Haley 23” into a brick in one of the columns with a key while his partner (going to get out on a branch here and say Haley) watches. He then turns to flash the camera an infuriating smile, which — as one person commented — reads a bit like an admission of wrongdoing.
“[A]s you see in the video, I kind of approach him and ask him, dumbfounded at this point, ‘Are you serious? Are you really serious?,’” the tourist who filmed the incident, Ryan Lutz, told the Associated Press. “And all he could do is like smile at me.”
Incidents of this nature are occurring at fairly regular intervals, particularly with the uptick in tourism to Italy (this is the fourth time such graffiti has been reported at the Colosseum this year), but they aren’t exclusive to the European country. Carvings over prehistoric art at Big Bend National Park, broken Moai statues on Easter Island and spray-painted Tottori Sand Dunes in Japan all tell the story of a society growing increasingly less concerned with the preservation of its history than with performative destruction for a few Instagram views.
That said, Italy’s culture and tourism ministers have vowed to find and punish those responsible to the fullest extent of the law. “I consider it very serious, unworthy and a sign of great incivility that a tourist defaces one of the most famous places in the world, the Colosseum, to engrave the name of his fiancée. I hope that whoever did this will be identified and sanctioned according to our laws,” Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano tweeted.
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For the uninitiated, those laws have come with hefty fines in the past. Per the Associated Press, a Russian tourist was fined 20,000 euros ($25,000) and received a four-year suspended jail sentence back in 2014 for engraving a big letter ‘K’ on a wall of the Colosseum. According to Italian news agency ANSA, “Ivan” could face as much as $15,000 in fines and up to five years in prison.
“We cannot allow those who visit our nation to feel free to behave in this way,” Tourism Minister Daniela Santanche said, echoing Sangiuliano.
For whoever needs to hear this (ahem, Ivan and Haley): if you’re going to do something illegal like damage the most iconic landmark of Ancient Rome, probably don’t do it using your name and the date on which the vandalism was committed — and then also smile for the camera.
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