Tourism authorities in Rome are being plagued by a unique problem, that of tourists, mainly Europeans, and including some British travellers, stealing cobblestones, marble mile markers and pieces of mosaic that are artefacts from ancient Rome, and taking them home with them as souvenirs.
Travellers are being apprehended at the customs desks of two Italian airports, Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino and Rome Ciampino, for trying to smuggle 2,000 year-old hardware and artefacts taken from the streets of Rome, said the security officials and Roman police.
Italian police chief, Antonio Del Greco, told the Daily Mail, ‘It’s a particularly unusual theft and at the same time it’s one that we are finding is on the increase and happening more and more often.
Those primarily responsible are northern Europeans who have simply picked up a loose cobblestone or piece of mosaic they have found while wandering around Rome.
They then put it in their luggage and take it home with them as a souvenir of their holiday – we have also found large milestones made from marble in suitcases that have been taken from the Appian Way.’
Umberto Broccoli, the superintendent of culture for Rome city council, said in an interview, ‘I should warn all tourists that the city’s rich heritage should not be touched. What these people do by stealing these items is show their ignorance.
I can understand the legend and splendour that is Rome but that does not mean bits of it should be stolen by all means tourists should take as many pictures as they like but they should not help themselves to cobblestones or other items even if they appear to be discarded. If they want a souvenir of their visit then they should buy something from a shop.’