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Tourist who etched love note on Colosseum says he didn’t know it was ancient

Ivan Danailov Dimitrov, 27, wrote a letter to Rome officials expressing “heartfelt apologies to the Italians and to the whole world.”
/ Source: NBC News

A tourist who was caught on video defacing the wall of the Colosseum in Rome last month by carving a love note into it claims in a letter of apology that he was unaware the nearly 2,000-year-old amphitheater was ancient. 

The man, identified by his lawyer as 27-year-old Ivan Danailov Dimitrov, used a key to carve “Ivan+Hayley 23” onto a brick wall of the structure on June 23 in a move that drew outrage on social media and from Italian officials.

In a letter dated July 4 and shared with NBC News by his attorney, Dimitrov wrote: “I admit with deepest embarrassment that it was only after what regrettably happened that I learned of the antiquity of the monument.”

Man carves names in colosseum
27-year-old Ivan Danailov Dimitrov used a key to carve “Ivan+Hayley 23” onto a brick wall of the Colosseum.YouTube

The letter was addressed to the mayor of Rome, the City Council and city magistrates.

Dimitrov said he is “aware of the gravity of the act committed” and extended “my heartfelt apologies to the Italians and to the whole world for the damage done to an asset that is, in fact, the heritage of all humanity.”

Though Dimitrov has not been publicly identified by Italian officials, the nation’s police, the Carabinieri, said on June 29 that they are investigating and that the suspect and his partner live in England.

“I am also aware that similar conduct in my country would have resulted in much more serious consequences,” Dimitrov wrote. “For this reason I accept all responsibility and will make sincere and concrete efforts to redeem myself and make up for the mistake I have made.”

Man carves names in colosseum
A tourist defaced the wall of the Colosseum in Rome on June 23.Harald Nachtmann / Getty Images

Dimitrov said there’s no “justification” for the “incivility, superficiality and levity” of his actions. He closed the letter saying he’s “hoping” his apology will be accepted.

His attorney, Alexandro Maria Tirelli, told NBC News exclusively: “We have already made a plea bargain request, the boy will certainly take advantage of the suspended sentence.”

Tirelli described the defacing act as heinous “but not serious.” He said the letter was mailed Tuesday.

NBC News has reached out to Rome’s prosecutor’s office for comment. The mayor of Rome’s office said Thursday that it had not received any letter.

Vandalizing the Colosseum is an act that carries fines up up to $15,000 and five years in prison, according to The Associated Press.

Italy’s culture minister, Gennaro Sangiuliano, on June 26 tweeted video of the incident, calling it a “very serious, unworthy and a sign of great incivility.” He added that he hoped the perpetrator would be “sanctioned according to our laws.” 

This isn’t the first time the Colosseum has been vandalized by tourists. 

In 2014, a Russian tourist was fined about $25,000 and received a four-year suspended sentence after writing the letter “K” on the wall of the Colosseum, The AP reported. One year later, two American tourists were cited for aggravated damage after they carved their names in the Colosseum. 

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