Tourist Detained for Vandalizing an Ancient House in Pompeii

Italy is cracking down on the tourists who deface its ancient monuments.

House of the Ceii at Pompeii Archaeological Park in Italy. Photo: DeAgostini/Getty Images.

A tourist has been detained after he was discovered carving the letters “ALI” onto the plaster of an ancient house in Pompeii. Italy’s culture minister Gennaro Sangiuliano called the act “an uncivilized and idiotic disgrace” and said the perpetrator must repay the full cost of restoring the damage.

On the morning of Saturday, June 22, a tourist who is reportedly from Kazakhstan was discovered vandalizing the House of Ceii at Pompeii Archaeological Park by staff members. He was immediately reported to local authorities, known as the Carabinieri, and detained.

“After completing all the necessary formalities with law enforcement agencies, he was released,” the ministry of foreign affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan confirmed, according to Kazinform. It said that the case will now be resolved via administrative court proceedings, so the man will not be criminally prosecuted.

a finer points to a plain plaster wall in which you can faintly see the letters ALI inscribed, there are also other faint carvings from over the years

Tourist vandalizes House of the Ceii in Pompei with letters “ALI.” Photo courtesy of Italy’s Ministry of Culture.

“Unfortunately, even today, we find ourselves commenting on an uncivilized and idiotic disgrace caused to our artistic and cultural heritage,” said Sangiuliano in a press statement. “This is a very serious act that will have to be prosecuted severely and, also thanks to the new law that I strongly supported, the perpetrator will be forced to repay the costs of fully restoring the damage caused.”

Earlier this year, Italy’s parliament decided to crack down on the vandalism of its cultural heritage by raising the maximum fine for these offenses from €15,000 ($16,000) to €40,000 ($43,000). The move is also intended to curb the tide of climate protests that target artworks and public monuments.

Ancient monuments are often tagged by tourists. Just a few weeks ago, a 27-year-old Dutch tourist was arrested for using a black marker to scrawl over another house in the historic city of Herculaneum, near Pompeii, which was also destroyed and preserved by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 C.E.

“Every damage is a wound to our heritage, to our beauty, and to our identity and this is why it must be sanctioned with the utmost firmness,” said Sangiuliano in a press statement issued shortly after the incident.

Last year, Ivan Dimitrov, a Bulgarian tourist who lives in Bristol, England was caught on camera engraving “Ivan + Hayley ’23” onto the Colosseum while on holiday with his girlfriend. The incident sparked outrage online and after Dimitrov was tracked down thanks to CCTV footage and hotel records, he learned that the crime could potentially result in jail time and a fine of up to $16,000. He reportedly begged Italian authorities for forgiveness.

Just weeks later, in July 2023, a teenage girl from Switzerland was also caught carving her name into the Roman amphitheater.

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