Pompei: An American tourist who allegedly stole a marble fragment from the ancient Roman city of Pompeii near Naples in southern Italy was detained by police on Monday.
Security guards called police after they saw the 31-year-old tourist use his foot to dig out a chip of marble from the floor of Pompeii’s House of the Small Fountain dating from the first century AD.
The fragile 2,500-year-old ruins of Pompeii — a UNESCO World Heritage Site — are one of Italy’s top tourist attractions and in 2015 received nearly three million visitors, according to the culture ministry.
In May last year, the US returned to Italy three frescoes taken from Pompeii nearly 60 years ago as well as 22 other pieces of stolen art smuggled across the Atlantic.
The 1st century BC frescoes depicting a woman with a red mantle, a male figure and a young woman with a cupid were due to be auctioned in New York after an American tycoon died, leaving his valuable private collection.
The frescoes were stolen from Pompeii on 26 July, 1957 with three other frescoes that have already been recovered from Switzerland, Britain and the US, Italian police said.
More recently, in September 2014, two American tourists were held at Rome’s Fiumicino airport with a 30 kg artefact from Pompeii stashed in their luggage which they allegedly hoped to fly home with.
The artefact, which would have adorned a building at Pompeii, was discovered in the tourists’ luggage in their rental car.