Filming Tourist Defacing Colosseum Leaves American “Dumbfounded” as Search for Culprit Intensifies

by Joshua Brown

Italy’s commitment to identifying and penalizing a tourist who defaced the Colosseum in Rome by carving his and his apparent girlfriend’s names into its ancient walls has been affirmed by the country’s culture and tourism ministers. Such acts of vandalism have previously led to substantial fines.

The inscription, which read “Ivan+Haley 23,” emerged on the Colosseum at a time when locals were already expressing concerns about the overwhelming influx of tourists flooding the Eternal City during this season. Ryan Lutz, a fellow tourist from Orange, California, captured the incident on video and shared it on YouTube and Reddit.

The video gained over 1,500 views on social media and caught the attention of Italian news outlets. Speaking to The Big Big News on Tuesday, Lutz expressed his disbelief that someone would deface such a significant monument, stating he was “dumbfounded.”

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Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano denounced the inscription carved into the Flavian Amphitheater, which is nearly 2,000 years old, as “serious, undignified, and a sign of great incivility.” He expressed hope that the culprits would be identified and punished in accordance with the law.

According to the Italian news agency ANSA, this incident marks the fourth occurrence of graffiti reported at the Colosseum this year. Whoever is responsible for this latest episode faces potential fines of $15,000 and up to five years of imprisonment.

Tourism Minister Daniela Santanche expressed her desire for the tourist to face consequences, emphasizing the need for respect toward Italy’s culture and history. She pledged, “We cannot allow those who visit our nation to feel entitled to behave in such a manner.”

Lutz, who is currently on a two-month backpacking trip through Europe, disclosed that he witnessed the individual carving his name into the Colosseum wall shortly after completing a guided tour on Friday. Shocked by the act, Lutz decided to film the incident with his phone. He approached the perpetrator and asked, astonished, “Are you serious? Are you really serious?” In response, the individual merely smiled.

Despite Lutz’s attempts to involve a security guard, neither the guard nor their supervisor took any action, even after Lutz identified the culprit and offered to share the video evidence. The following morning, Lutz decided to post the video online after calming down. While he acknowledged the value of graffiti and art, he regarded carving one’s name as a selfish act. Lutz asserted that visitors to foreign countries should not repay their hosts “with blatant disrespect like this.”

Visitors outside the Colosseum shared Lutz’s sentiments. Diego Cruz, an American student, emphasized the importance of preserving historical heritage and learning from the past. Güldamla Ozsema, a computer engineer from Turkey, expressed frustration with disrespectful tourists and recounted similar difficulties faced by his own country in safeguarding its monuments.

The Italian tourism lobby Federturismo, supported by statistics bureau ISTAT, has reported that 2023 is on track to break records for visitor numbers in Italy, surpassing pre-pandemic levels seen in 2019.

In 2014, a Russian tourist received a fine of 20,000 euros ($25,000) and a four-year suspended jail sentence for engraving a large letter ‘K’ on a Colosseum wall. The following year, two American tourists were also charged with aggravated damage after carving their names into the monument.

Note: This revised version clarifies details, improves readability, and removes minor errors.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about vandalism

Q: What was the response to the tourist carving names in the Colosseum?

A: The culture and tourism ministers of Italy vowed to find and punish the tourist responsible for carving names in the Colosseum. They denounced the act as serious, undignified, and a sign of great incivility, emphasizing the need to uphold Italy’s cultural heritage and laws.

Q: How did the incident come to light?

A: The incident was filmed by a fellow tourist, Ryan Lutz, who captured the act of vandalism on video and shared it on YouTube and Reddit. The video gained significant attention on social media and was subsequently picked up by Italian media outlets.

Q: What were the potential consequences for the tourist?

A: This marked the fourth incident of graffiti reported at the Colosseum in the same year. The person responsible for this particular act of vandalism could face fines of up to $15,000 and a maximum prison sentence of five years, according to Italian news agency ANSA.

Q: How did the witness, Ryan Lutz, react to the incident?

A: Ryan Lutz, the tourist who filmed the incident, expressed his disbelief and being “dumbfounded” by someone defacing such an important monument. He approached the vandal, asked if they were serious, and even attempted to involve a security guard, but no action was taken at the time.

Q: What was the reaction from Italian officials and visitors?

A: Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano condemned the act as a serious offense and expressed hope that the culprits would be found and punished in accordance with the law. Tourism Minister Daniela Santanche stressed the importance of respecting Italy’s culture and history. Visitors and tourists outside the Colosseum also expressed their concerns and emphasized the need to preserve historical heritage.

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RomeExplorer June 28, 2023 - 7:32 pm

as a local, it breaks my heart to see these acts of vandalism. our city welcomes visitors, but we hope they treat our landmarks with the same love and care they deserve.

HistoryBuff23 June 28, 2023 - 9:03 pm

it’s sad to see such lack of respect for our cultural heritage. these monuments hold so much history and meaning. we should educate people on the importance of preservation.

WanderlustGuru June 28, 2023 - 11:35 pm

i get why people want to leave their mark, but there are better ways to do it. respect the place you’re visiting and appreciate its beauty instead of defacing it!

Traveler87 June 29, 2023 - 6:45 am

wow, thx for sharing this vid! im going to rome soon and now im worried about all the tourists doing dumb stuff like this. we need to protect these amazing historical sites!


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