The Italian Almanac

inside the Colosseum

The Stone is Back

A couple of American tourists have returned a piece of the Colosseum they hacked off 25 years ago as a souvenir. The bit of stone, small enough to fit into a pocket, arrived in Rome in a courier package from Greensboro, North California.

``We should have done this sooner,`` the anonymous souvenir hunters said in an accompanying note. ``Every time I looked at my souvenir collection and came across that piece it made me feel guilty,`` wrote the wife. ``Over the years, I started thinking that if all the visitors to that beautiful monument took a piece of it away with them nothing would be left standing. It was a selfish and superficial act``.

Rome archeological officials accepted the couple`s apology, saying the episode proved that ``Rome and its monuments are the dream of all the world`s tourists``. ``The message is that visitors to our city continue to cherish it even after so many years,`` said Lazio Tourism chief Claudio Mancini. He invited the couple back to the Italian capital.

Last August a German tourist was caught trying to sneak a 9 kg rock from the Forum out of Italy in her backpack. In 2006 another German tourist was caught at Fiumicino Airport with a piece of a Roman column in his bag.