A Remorseful Young American Has Returned an Ancient Artifact She Stole on Vacation in Italy to Give Her Boyfriend

A package with the pilfered stone showed up recently at the National Roman Museum.

The Colosseum, in Rome. Photo: Thierry Monasse/dpa. Photo by Thierry Monasse/picture alliance via Getty Images.
The Colosseum in Rome. Photo by Thierry Monasse/picture alliance via Getty Images.

Jess, a tourist who visited Rome in 2017, has returned a fragment of ancient marble along with a note apologizing “for being such an American asshole.”

The National Roman Museum recently received the piece of stone, which was inscribed in black marker, “To Sam, love Jess, Rome 2017.”

“I feel terrible for not only stealing this item from its rightful place, but writing on it,” said the note accompanying the item. “It was a big mistake on my part and only now, as an adult, do I realize just how thoughtless and despicable it was.”

The museum’s director says that the package came from Atlanta, Georgia, according to Italian newspaper Il Messaggero. “From its tone we imagine it was a young woman,” said Stéphane Verger. “In 2017 she must have come to Rome, and took this fragment of marble in order to gift it to her boyfriend. It made an impact on me precisely because she is young—she understood that she had made a mistake.”

It’s unclear where the fragment was taken from, but some reports suggest it could be the Roman Forum.

Jess’s act of contrition comes a month after a Canadian woman returned items she stole from Pompeii, saying that she suspected they were behind a string of bad luck, including bouts with cancer and financial problems.

Jess did not indicate that any bad luck had come along with her filched fragment, but Verger speculated that perhaps the COVID-19 era connects the two acts of penitence.

“The year 2020, decimated by the Covid pandemic, has made people reflect, as well as moved the conscience,” he told Il Messaggero. “The fact is that three years after the theft, she returned it—it’s a very important symbolic gesture.”

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