The Most Horrific Things Tourists Have Done In Italy

We all know that people can be rough enough to deal with at home, whether driving slowly in the wrong lane, throwing trash on the ground, or talking loudly on speakerphone at the grocery store. Somehow, on vacation, these bad-behaving people can get even more troublesome. And since Italy is one of the most popular tourist destinations on the planet, it's pretty much guaranteed that many of these crowds needing etiquette classes have made their way to the European hotspot. It's gotten so bad that Venice residents held a march protesting the tourism industry in 2017, and there are Facebook groups also protesting the behavior, like "Venezia NON è Disneyland" (which translates to "Venice ISN'T Disneyland.")

Italian police know that firsthand, as they've had to hand out tickets for everything from surfing in Venice's Grand Canal to chucking a scooter down Rome's Spanish Steps and urinating from the top of Florence's iconic Duomo. Clearly, the centuries of priceless art and history just don't cut it for some of the people heading to Il Bel Paese for a getaway. Here are some of the most cringeworthy, horrific things tourists have done in Italy.

A tourist carved his name on a Colosseum wall in Rome

As one of the Seven Wonders of The World and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Rome's Colosseum is one of the most widely-known historic monuments on the planet. However, one gym instructor from the U.K. didn't get the memo, as reported in the BBC. In June 2023, 27-year-old Ivan Dimitrov was spotted by another tourist etching his and his girlfriend's name into a stone wall of the site using a key. The other tourist, an American, filmed the incident and posted it on Reddit. After the video went viral, Italian police got to work hunting down the culprit. Dimitrov's excuse? He didn't know the Colosseum was historic. According to the letter he wrote two months later, apologizing to the mayor of Rome as well as the police for the incident, "I admit with profound embarrassment that only after what regretfully happened did I learn of the antiquity of the monument."

Unsurprisingly, that excuse didn't cut it, and Dimitrov — who carved "'Ivan + Hayley 23" into the age-old wall — faced two to five years in prison and a fine of up to 15,000 euros. Although the letter, suggested by Dimitrov's lawyer, was meant to minimize the vandal's punishment, it possibly only did the opposite. A member of the Rome city council said, "'What nonsense and what a surreal letter. What level of education does this man have not to know the significance of the Colosseum?"

A couple tried to steal 90 pounds of sand from Sardinia

The island of Sardinia is known for its prized white-sand beaches, which is part of the reason why removing the sand (as well as pebbles and shells) from the beaches is illegal. However, a French couple didn't seem to know that — even though it's advertised on multilingual signage on many of the island's beaches — when they attempted to smuggle nearly 90 pounds of the sand out via more than a dozen plastic bottles in August of 2019, reported CNN Travel. Luckily, police found the souvenirs in their SUV right before the tourists hopped on a ferry back to France, according to the BBC. The couple claimed that they had no idea that removing the sand was illegal once they were charged with stealing, which came with a punishment of up to six years in prison and 3,000 euros in fines.

Unfortunately, it wasn't even close to the first — or last — time that someone tried to steal sand from the pristine beaches. It's a common crime, resulting in tens of tons of sand being confiscated over the past two decades, with people even trying to buy and sell the sand online. That's why campaigns have been organized by local police to create awareness of the issue.

A woman threw her electric scooter down the Spanish Steps in Rome

It's not easy to traverse the 135 Spanish Steps in Rome. However, that's certainly not an excuse to hurl your scooter down them. Sadly, that's exactly what an American woman did in June of 2022, as reported by the New York Times. At nearly 3 a.m., while in a drunken stupor, the 28-year-old woman chucked her electric scooter down the famous steps, a crime that was caught by surveillance video. Her companion, a 29-year-old man, was also seen pulling his own scooter down the stairs.

Although the pair caused 25,000 euros in damage after the woman's scooter hawked off a four-inch piece of marble (according to CNN Travel), they got off relatively easily for their crimes. Each was fined 400 euros and was banned from the immediate area for 48 hours. The woman was also charged with damage to a monument, an offense that can result in up to a year in jail and a minimum of 2,000 euros in fines, continued the New York Times. The damage came just seven years after 1.5 million euros was spent restoring the popular Roman site that has long been the location for various scenes in films such as "The Talented Mr. Ripley," Woody Allen's "To Rome with Love," and "Roman Holiday" with Audrey Hepburn. The Spanish Steps are also one of the best things to do if you only have one day in Rome

Two people surfed down Venice's Grand Canal

Venice might be lined with canals, but it isn't known for its watersports since surfing, paddle boarding, and canoeing are all banned on its waters, according to BBC. Nevertheless, two people gave the waterways a go via foil surfboard in August of 2022, reported on CNN Travel. The duo cruised the Grand Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, while surrounded by tourists (many who videoed the incident) on an otherwise average summer morning. The two sped past iconic sites as one surfer filmed the other with his smartphone. However, the mayor of Venice didn't think the incident was quite so Instagram-worthy. He tweeted that the surfers were "two overbearing idiots making a mockery of the city" and even offered a free dinner to whoever could help name the surfers so they could be brought to justice.

Later, the mayor announced that the pair had been identified, although we're not sure who got to enjoy that free Italian dinner. Both surfers were fined 1,500 euros, kicked out of the city, and, priciest of all, their surfboards — each worth 25,000 euros — were taken away since they lacked insurance. They also faced charges for allegedly damaging Venice's reputation. However, they're not the only people damaging the city's reputation. The rise in incidents of theft means Venice has become known as one of the most dangerous vacation spots in Italy.

Two visitors skinny-dipped in Venice's Grand Canal

Venice can be pleasant in September, as temperatures have an average high of 75 degrees Fahrenheit. But one Venice night in September of 2019 got two Czech tourists sweaty when they decided to take a nude dip into the Grand Canal near Piazza San Marco, later telling police that it was a "particularly warm evening," according to CNN Travel. The duo was in town for a soccer match in Milan (three hours west of Venice), but their acts brought them to the police station instead. Each was fined 3,000 euros for crimes against public decency — after they put their clothes back on, said Yahoo!.

And they were doing anything but trying to avoid attention to their late-night swim. The police said that they spotted the "two men, completely nude, intent on laughing and joking with each other, and trying to catch the attention of passers by" after they simply followed the sounds of gawkers otherwise trying to enjoy the ambiance of the Grand Canal. The 2-mile-long waterway is the main way that people and products have long traversed Venice. Worried about the crowds in this major tourist hotspot? Check out the simple solution suggested by Rick Steves to avoid crowds on your trip to Venice. Here's hoping you won't have to deal with any skinny dippers.

A man drove his moped through Pompeii

The ancient city of Pompeii was destroyed in A.D. 79 after Mount Vesuvius erupted, blanketing the city in ash and forever embalming it as a major site for visitors from all over the world (not that they expected it to become a tourist hotspot at the time). However, an Australian tourist nearly damaged the brittle city even further when he drove through it on his moped in August 2022, reported The Independent. Although the 33-year-old man said he didn't know that the city's roads were illegal to traverse by tourist vehicle, he probably should have gotten the hint when he broke through a gate into the historic park otherwise used by employees.

Luckily, since he was caught in just a few minutes — he only made it about a mile through the popular site and only on dirt roads surrounding the former city's border — none of Pompeii's ruins were damaged further. As soon as security saw him scooting around on surveillance tapes, they were able to get him to pump the brakes. Although he apologized, Italian media was not happy and called him a "barbarian." He was also charged with the crime of unauthorized access. Of course, this iconic disaster site is still worth getting authorized access to — here's why you should add Pompeii to your European bucket list

A visitor damaged sculptures at the Vatican

We get it; it's frustrating to travel all the way to the Vatican, the seat of the Roman Catholic Church, and not get to see the pope, but one American tourist just couldn't get past his disappointment. According to Italian news organization Adnkronos, a 65-year-old American citizen damaged sculptures in the Vatican's  Museo Chiaramonti in October 2022. The museum, undoubtedly one of the best museums to visit in Italy, houses more than 1,000 age-old sculptures, making it home to one of the most acclaimed collections of Roman portraits on the planet, per the museum's website. Unfortunately, that number might now be closer to 998. The man threw one sculpture (which was resting on a shelf) after he was told that he wouldn't be able to meet the pope, Italian news organization Il Messaggero reported. Then, as he ran from authorities, he knocked over a second.

It will cost up to 350 hours and 15,000 euros to repair the sculptures, as one bust lost its nose and ear, and the other came off its stand, said CNN Travel. However, the Vatican said that no amount of restoration could repair the sculptures. At the very least, however, reported USA Today, the busts are not famous works, but instead are copies of works, albeit copies that are around 2,000 years old. Regardless, the man faced charges, including aggravated damage.

A man drove his Maserati down the Spanish Steps in Rome

Everyone has taken a wrong turn or two when trying to follow their GPS. But one Saudi tourist's wrong turn in a rented Maserati Levante could cost him up to a year in jail and 3,000 euros in fines after he faced charges of aggravated damage to cultural heritage and monuments, according to the Sunday Times Driving. In May 2022, the 37-year-old engineer was arrested after accidentally driving his SUV down the Spanish Steps in Rome — which were constructed in the early 1700s— around midnight.

Once he realized he was not exactly on the main road, he got out of the car, inspected the damage, and called a tow truck, as seen on surveillance footage. When no truck showed up, he simply did a U-turn and headed back up the steps. His joyride damaged the 16th and 29th steps up from Piazza di Spagna, as well as plenty of scrapes on both of the ramps on the second level of the steps. The step pieces were quickly reattached so tourists could continue to traverse the steps in the busy area. The man was identified after police used surveillance footage to pinpoint the rental company from which he rented the Maserati, and he was found in the nick of time at the Milan Malpensa Airport before boarding his flight back to Saudi Arabia.

Tourists tried to picnic on historic structures in Venice

Venice has nearly 2,000 restaurants for visitors and residents alike to choose from, but four German tourists wanted to create their own spot for lunch when they visited the city in 2022. Unfortunately, according to The Independent, they chose an outdoor historic wellhead dating back to the early 18th century as their table. The tourists set their picnic — complete with tablecloth — upon the stone structure near Campo San Zaccaria. Luckily, local police were quickly informed, and the luncheon was dismantled. Each tourist was then handed a 1,050 euro fine, tip not included.

That wasn't even the first time German tourists were caught picnicking upon Venice's living history. In July 2019, a pair of backpackers from Berlin were fined 950 euros and kicked out of the city for making coffee on the steps of the Rialto Bridge (which dates back to 1591), per the New York Times. The crime came to light when a neighbor reported the actions of the 32- and 35-year-old to police, who sprang to life to protect the integrity of the stone bridge that crosses over the Grand Canal and is the oldest canal-crossing bridge in the city.

A tourist flew his drone in Rome, which crashed into Palazzo Venezia

Drones are not allowed to be flown throughout Rome and the Vatican due partly to the countless historic monuments that the area is home to, as reported by CNN Travel. However, a 39-year-old Argentinean tourist just couldn't resist sending his drone to the skies in April of 2022 — a drone that eventually crashed into Palazzo Venezia, which dates back to the mid-1400s. The building is an important one in Rome for positive and negative reasons — it was here fascist dictator Benito Mussolini addressed the public in some of his most well-known speeches, such as his 1940 speech when he declared war against Britain and France, said The Guardian.

The Palazzo Venezia has been the home of important figures like popes and cardinals, and now it is another excellent museum in the Eternal City. Thankfully, the building near Piazza Navona wasn't damaged, and no one was hurt. The tourist, however, lost his drone and could face fines — ranging from 516 to 64,000 euros — for violating a no-fly zone. Italian police said that the man likely didn't know that drones weren't allowed in the area, as Italy (unlike other countries) only allows residents to fly drones in cities if they receive a special license and authorization.

A man urinated from the top of Florence

If you climb the 463 steps to the top of Filippo Brunelleschi's Renaissance dome — more famously known as the Duomo — in Florence, you'll have to wait until you climb all the way back down to go to the bathroom, as there are no bathrooms at the top of the nearly 600-year-old architectural wonder, according to USA Today. Unfortunately, one 37-year-old Canadian man just couldn't hold it in June 2015 when he urinated from the top of the terracotta dome (but luckily for passersby, he aimed for the porter's lodge).

To other tourists, not being able to wait for a bathroom just wasn't a worthy excuse, as one informed police of the stream. Once the tourist headed back down the steps, he was promptly hit with a 400-euro fine. The Duomo, thankfully, made it out just fine and no damage was reported to the famed church. Formally known as the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, it is one of the biggest churches on the planet, and undoubtedly one of the many must-visit spots in Florence.

Seven tourists in a single weekend were fined for swimming in Rome's fountains

The summer of 2019 must have been a hot one in Rome. Within just one June weekend that year, a whopping seven tourists were each fined 450 euros for cooling off in the various historic fountains of the city, according to Wanted in Rome. First, a 42-year-old Ukrainian man hopped in the Trevi Fountain, the biggest fountain in the city and a relic dating back to 19 B.C., just as the sun was rising for what either was an early morning or late-night dip. Just a few hours later, a French woman dunked her feet into the Trevi Fountain's waters, not the wisest move considering a million euros worth of coins are removed from the fountain annually.

A few moments later — the police were actually fining the French woman at that moment — an American man in his 30s began wading in the fountain waters. He, too, was promptly removed from the water and fined 450 euros. The following morning (or once again, night, depending on if they went to bed yet), four tourists (including two New Zealand men and two Estonian women) were caught cooling off in Bernini's Fountain of the Four Rivers, which was built in 1651 in the nearby Piazza Navona, just a 15-minute walk from the Trevi Fountain. Il Bel Paese is packed with magnificent adventures, but don't be like these people, and don't do these things when visiting Italy. Just don't.