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A tourist traveling from the United Kingdom has been forced to apologize after he was caught carving his name — and his fiancée’s — into the wall of the Colosseum in Rome.
The tourist, identified by authorities as a 27-year-old Bulgarian-born fitness trainer named Ivan Dimitrov, has written a letter of apology to the Mayor of Rome — in which he claimed that he did not know the historical significance of the landmark. The letter, dated July 4, was also sent to the Rome prosecutor’s office and “the municipality of Rome.”
Dimitrov, who currently resides in Bristol, England, could face up to five years in prison in addition to hefty fines — around $16,000 or more — after he reportedly used a key to scratch “Ivan + Hayley 23” into the 2,000-year-old edifice. Video of Dimitrov’s crime went viral, eventually leading to his apprehension.
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In his letter to Rome Mayor Roberto Gualtieri — which was published in an Italian newspaper on Wednesday — Dimitrov simultaneously pleaded ignorance and begged for forgiveness.
“It is with deep embarrassment that only after what regrettably happened did I learn of the antiquity of the monument,” he wrote. “Through these lines I would like to address my heartfelt and honest apologies to the Italians and to the whole world for the damage caused to an asset which, in fact, is the heritage of all humanity.”
Dimitrov’s attorney argued that the fitness instructor was just an ignorant tourist, telling local news outlet Il Messaggero, “The boy is the prototype of the foreigner who frivolously believes that anything is allowed in Italy, even the type of act which in their own countries would be severely punished.”
An American tourist — who had just finished a tour of the ancient landmark himself — was the one who filmed Dimitrov’s escapade and brought it to the attention of Italian police.
“And as you see in the video, I kind of approach him and ask him, dumbfounded at this point, ‘Are you serious? Are you really serious?'” Lutz said later. “And all he could do is like smile at me.”
Lutz said that at first, Italian authorities did not appear to be acting on the tip — but a day later, they had identified Dimitrov.
“This act was offensive to everyone around the world who appreciates the value of archaeology, monuments and history,” Italian Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano said of the incident.
Thus far, Italian media outlets do not appear to be buying Dimitrov’s excuse. Il Messaggero said the tourist’s groveling letter “defaced common sense,” and one television commentator said it was “really a somewhat unbelievable excuse.”