Italian Police Are Looking For A Tourist Who Was Filmed Carving Names Into Rome’s Colosseum

Published June 28, 2023

The tourist could face a fine of at least $15,000 and a prison term of up to five years for defacing the historic site in Rome.

Tourist Carving Into Colosseum

Ryan LutzThe unidentified tourist was filmed carving two names and the date into the iconic structure.

Italian officials have vowed to locate and punish a young tourist who was caught defacing Rome’s Colosseum last Friday. The unidentified man was filmed by an American tourist carving “Ivan + Hayley 23/6/23” onto the wall of the 2,000-year-old structure with a set of keys.

“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,” the Italian culture minister, Gennaro Sangiuliano, said on Twitter alongside a video the man. “I hope that whoever did this will be identified and sanctioned according to our laws.”

Those sanctions would be severe. The tourist could face a fine of at least $15,000 and a prison term of up to five years.

The man — presumably named Ivan — was caught on film by American tourist Ryan Lutz. According to the Associated Press, Lutz noticed the man “blatantly carving his name” into the Colosseum wall after Lutz finished a tour of the site. In shock, he took out his phone and started filming.

“And as you see in the video, I kind of approach him and ask him, dumbfounded at this point, ‘Are you serious? Are you really serious?'” Lutz said. “And all he could do is like smile at me.”

According to The New York Times, the wall that the man defaced is not part of the original 2,000-year-old structure, but a section built during a mid-19th century restoration. For Italian officials, that doesn’t change much.

Colosseum In Rome

Jaroslav Petrek, @petrekfoto/Wikimedia CommonsThe Colosseum is one of the most well-known historic sites in Rome.

“Mid-19th century or original, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s vandalism,” Alfonsina Russo, the director of the Colosseum, told The New York Times.

It’s not the first time in recent years that someone has vandalized the Colosseum, which was completed in 80 C.E. and used as a grand amphitheater that could seat between 50,000 and 80,000 people.

The Associated Press reports that in 2014, a Russian tourist was fined €20,000 and given a four-year suspended jail sentence for carving a large “K” into the monument. The Guardian reports that a man from Ireland and a German teen were also disciplined for defacing the Colosseum in 2020.

Italy has introduced harsh laws for transgressions like these in recent years, but they haven’t entirely stemmed the tide of bad tourist behavior. Last year, a tourist pushed an electric scooter down Rome’s 18th-century Spanish Steps, causing €25,000 of damage, and two other tourists were reprimanded for riding motorized surfboards in Venice’s Grand Canal.

Tourists On Spanish Steps

Polizia Roma CapitalePolice video of the tourists using scooters on Rome’s historic Spanish Steps.

This sort of behavior is, however, condemned by most other tourists.

“We have to preserve what we have,” Diego Cruz, an American student in Rome, told the Associated Press. “There is a rich history here. It helps us learn from the past.”

Güldamla Ozsema, a computer engineer visiting from Turkey, seconded Cruz, adding that Turkey has also struggled with destructive tourists. “I really get angry with them, with this behavior,” he said.

Indeed, as the search continues for “Ivan,” Italian officials like Tourism Minister Daniela Santanche have stressed that visitors to Rome and elsewhere in Italy need to respect their surroundings.

“We cannot allow those who visit our nation to feel free to behave in this way,” she said.

After reading about the tourist who was filmed defacing the Colosseum, see how an American tourist smashed two statues at the Vatican after being denied an audience with the Pope. Or, look through these surprising facts about life in ancient Rome.

Kaleena Fraga
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Kaleena Fraga has also had her work featured in The Washington Post and Gastro Obscura, and she published a book on the Seattle food scene for the Eat Like A Local series. She graduated from Oberlin College, where she earned a dual degree in American History and French.
Maggie Donahue
Maggie Donahue is an assistant editor at All That's Interesting. She has a Master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and a Bachelor's degree in creative writing and film studies from Johns Hopkins University. Before landing at ATI, she covered arts and culture at The A.V. Club and Colorado Public Radio and also wrote for Longreads. She is interested in stories about scientific discoveries, pop culture, the weird corners of history, unexplained phenomena, nature, and the outdoors.
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Fraga, Kaleena. "Italian Police Are Looking For A Tourist Who Was Filmed Carving Names Into Rome’s Colosseum.", June 28, 2023, Accessed May 28, 2024.