Historic Sites

Guilt-ridden tourist returns stolen cobblestone to historic Roman site

Italian police patrols in front of St. Peter's Square in Rome, Italy, December 20, 2016.

Italian police patrols in front of St. Peter's Square in Rome, Italy, December 20, 2016.  (Reuters)

Rome's ancient attractions have been plagued by vandals in recent years but one tourist reportedly felt so bad about disturbing a piece of history that he (or she) felt the need to write a note about their misdeed.

After visiting Rome in 2016, an anonymous tourist reportedly took a piece of the street (a "sampietrini” cobblestone) from the famed Piazza del Popolo home. Recently, however, the tourist had second thoughts and decided to send the stolen souvenir back to Italy.

The traveler reportedly sent the stone – and a note – to the only address they likely had: a restaurant in Rome’s center near the piazza.

“They probably still had our business card from their visit,” a member of the restaurant’s staff told The Telegraph. “Not knowing who else to send it to, they remembered us.”

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“Please find enclosed a cobble from one of your cobbled roads,” the sightseer wrote in their note. “I stole this from Rome last year whilst on holiday as a souvenir. I am really sorry for doing this and I would like to return it to Rome.”

In the message, the tourist noted that the item was snatched on a road leading from Piazza del Popolo leading to Villa Borghese, a large park close by.

“Please would you mind returning it there,” the tourist wrote.

The “sampietrini” cobblestones often come loose as a result of sinking land or road work, making them an easy steal for those looking for a real historical artifact.

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Although this cobblestone had a happy ending, vandalism at tourist sites is becoming a growing problem in the Eternal City. Following several incidents of poor behavior, local officials in Rome are considering implementing a "no-go zone" around the Colosseum. That comes just weeks after the most-visited monument in the country completed an almost three year restoration.

According to Condé Nast Traveler, Francesco Prosperetti, a special superintendent for the Colosseum, is considering the establishment of an area that would cover an approximate 49 foot radius and “would be separated not by physical barriers but rather by chains defining the zone where video surveillance would be installed.”

The plan is still in preliminary stages, however, but if you want to get up close and personal to the Colosseum, don't delay your next trip to Italy.