Left: A tourist was filmed etching names into the wall of the Colosseum in Rome. (screenshot Valentina Di Liscia/Hyperallergic via Youtube); right: A view of the Colosseum (photo via Flickr)

An unidentified tourist was filmed vandalizing the Colosseum in Rome last Friday, June 23. In a video uploaded to YouTube by another visitor to the site, identified by the Associated Press as Ryan Lutz, the tourist can be seen using his keys to etch the words “Ivan + Hayley 23” into the wall of the Roman amphitheater. The footage gained traction almost immediately, grabbing the attention of the Italian Minister of Culture, Gennaro Sangiuliano, who took to Twitter to call for the vandal to be identified and sanctioned under Italian law.

“Are you f–ing serious, man?” Lutz asked the man while filming. The man did not respond, but simply turned around and grinned before turning back and continuing to etch his eternal love note into the wall. “That’s f–ed up, man,” Lutz said, before walking off to find a security guard to report the incident to. Lutz told AP that neither the guard nor the onsite supervisor did anything after he identified the vandal to them. However, Colosseum Director Alfonsina Russo told the New York Times that the amphitheater staff hadn’t been notified of the vandalism until last Monday, after the video had circulated online. Russo also clarified that the vandalized wall wasn’t originally part of the near 2,000-year-old structure; rather, it was installed during a mid-19th-century restoration.

The Colosseum has not yet responded to Hyperallergic’s request for comment.

As the clip made its way across all avenues of the web, Italian Minister of Culture Gennaro Sangiuliano decried the vandal’s behavior, calling it “very serious, unworthy, and a sign of great incivility.” Italian Tourism Minister Daniela Santanchè also tweeted about the gravity of this incident, saying that she hoped that the tourist was sanctioned “so that he understands the seriousness of the act.”

If caught, the tourist could face imprisonment for up to five years and fines of up to €15,000 (~$16,368) for the defacement of an archeological site, according to the Italian news agency ANSA. While Minister Sangiuliano’s proposed bill of five-figure fines for vandalizing monuments and heritage sites in the wake of a spate of climate emergency demonstrations passed unanimously under the Council of Ministers last April, the Italian government has doled out harsh punishments for defacement of the Colosseum in the past. In 2014, a Russian tourist was imprisoned for four months and fined €20,000 (~$21,823) for carving a large letter K into the amphitheater.

Rhea Nayyar (she/her) is a New York-based teaching artist who is passionate about elevating minority perspectives within the academic and editorial spheres of the art world. Rhea received her BFA in Visual...