A man was seen on video using keys to scrape words off the walls of the Colosseum, Italy. (Screenshots courtesy of Ryan Lutz via YouTube)
Ryan Lutz was so appalled by the sight he came across while strolling through Rome’s famous Colosseum that the Orange tourist started filming with his phone.
Footage shows a person appearing to carve names into the nearly 2,000-year-old bricks of the ancient amphitheater, defacing one of the world’s most famous landmarks – one that attracts millions of visitors each year.
Video of the June 23 incident made international news, drawing heavy criticism for the apparent act of vandalism. The Italian Minister of Culture, Gennaro Sangiuliano, asked that this person be “identified and sanctioned”.
“I consider it very serious, unworthy and a sign of great incivility for a tourist to degrade one of the most famous places in the world, a historical heritage (site) like the Colosseum, to engrave the name of his fiancee”, Sangiuliano tweeted on Monday, June 26. “I hope that whoever committed this act will be identified and punished in accordance with our laws.”
Lutz, reached by phone in Athens, Greece, on Monday, June 26, said the graffiti “bothers me a lot”, especially at such a historic site, so he was forced to pull out his phone and start filming.
As the video shows, Lutz approached from behind the man who appears to be carving into the brick, Lutz muttering just loud enough to get his attention.
“Are you serious, man?” Lutz said, followed by some profanity to underscore his outrage.
The man gave him a smile and continued to etch, which Lutz says irritated him even more.
“No shame at all,” Lutz said. “After that, I’m like, ‘OK, I have to tell somebody.'”
He found a guard outside the Colosseum to report the man, saying he had video evidence. But after Lutz reported the man, he said the security guard returned to his post, saying there was nothing he could do because he had not witnessed the act happening.
Lutz therefore demanded to see a supervisor and told him that he was assured that the authorities would be contacted and something would be done about it, but that Lutz could leave.
“It was a rather disappointing end to my trip to the Colosseum,” he said.
He returned to his hostel and told his dorm mate, still upset, about the encounter. It was suggested that Lutz post his video, which he did, by uploading it to Reddit.
He didn’t know how far it would go or the outrage that would result. International media picked up the story and the short video he released.
If convicted of a crime, the man faces a fine of at least $16,360 or up to five years in prison. CNN reported.
The UK’s Daily Mail interviewed Alfonsina Russo, director of the Colosseum, who said police were trying to find the man.
“When you meet uneducated people in the Colosseum, this kind of hooliganism happens and I hope there are no copycats,” Russo told the Daily Mail.
According to the BBC, In 2014, a Russian tourist was fined around $20,000 and sentenced to four months in prison for carving his initial K on a Colosseum wall. The Russian tourist was the fifth foreign visitor that year to be fined for defacing the Colosseum, according to the BBC, and Roman authorities announced plans to increase the number of surveillance cameras at the ancient monument.
In 2020, an Irish tourist was accused by Colosseum security of carving his initials on the monument.
The Colosseum, considered one of the seven wonders of the modern world, is listed as a World Heritage Site, alongside 54 other Italian sites that make up the historic center of the city.
Lutz is on a two-month tour of Europe, a much-needed break after recently earning a degree in geography at Cal Poly Pomona. Between visiting ancient sites and exploring, he now responds to media interview requests while continuing his journey.
The traveling tourist said he lived abroad when he was 19 in London and said it was important to him to try to change people’s perception of American tourists.
“I don’t want that reputation. I do my best to be a humble and dedicated traveler,” Lutz said. “I like other countries and I’m there as a guest. Don’t mess with your host country.
CNN contributed to this report.