US tourists caught carving initials on Colosseum

Two Californian women arrested for defacing Rome monument

Two American tourists were apprehended by police after carving their initials on an interior wall of the Colosseum on the morning of 7 March.

The incident took place after the two Californian women, aged 21 and 25, broke away from their tour group and used coins to carve a "J" and an "N" into the brick wall, before taking a selfie of their handiwork.

However the pair were caught in the act by a guide who raised the alarm, leading to the women's arrest on charges of aggravated damage to a building of historic and artistic importance.

The initials, which measure about 8-cm high, were carved into a wall on the first floor on the western side of the amphitheatre. The city's archaeological superintendency said that while the wall was not part of the original structure, it was "nevertheless antique” and dated back to restoration work carried out in the 19th-century.

The incident occurred just over three months after a Russian tourist was fined €20,000 for carving a 25-cm-tall "K" on a ground-floor brick wall on the south side of the Colosseum. The Russian became the fifth foreign tourist to be caught vandalising the amphiteatre in 2014.

Similar incidents involved a 45-year-old Australian man and his 12-year-old son scrawling on the monument in January, and in May a Brazilian teenager was also caught carving his name. In March a Canadian teenager was apprehended while trying to leave the Colosseum with a brick from the monument in her backpack.

The Australian man was arrested on charges of vandalism but the minors evaded fines due to their age.