Selfie-Seeking Tourist Damages Neptune Statue in Italy

Another day, another misbehaved tourist in Italy. Last Monday, September 4, a 22-year-old German man was detained in Florence for allegedly damaging a 16th-century marble statue of Neptune after climbing it to pose for a photo. According to a statement from the city’s municipal authorities, the tourist caused €5,000 (~$5,354) worth of damage to the 14-foot-tall statue by breaking off pieces in multiple places during his descent.

The authorities reported that a bit of the sculpted horse’s front hoof, a section of Neptune’s chariot, and part of the fountain from which the statue emerges were damaged or broken off due to the weight of the tourist as he climbed down after his photos were taken. The man was caught on CCTV footage after a similar tourist incident that resulted in Neptune’s hand breaking off in 2005 prompted the city to install security cameras and alarms in and around the statue.

Dario Nardella, the mayor of Florence, shared the footage and an anonymized photo of the tourist standing at the base of the statue via X (formerly Twitter), noting that the culprit “will pay a hefty fine.” The architect responsible for maintaining the city’s monuments, Tommaso Muccini, referred to the tourist as an “imbecile” to the Italian news outlet La Nazione, and said that the repairs to the statue would occur in October in accordance with the regularly scheduled maintenance plan.

The Fountain of Neptune was designed by Renaissance artist Baccio Bandinelli in 1559, but after his untimely death, it was later realized by his student, Bartolomeo Ammannati, and several supporting artists by 1574. Florentine Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici had commissioned the gargantuan fountain of the mythological sea god to celebrate the city’s new aqueduct as well as the marriage of his son, Francesco de’ Medici I, to Grand Duchess Joanna of Austria.

This was the latest incident in a slew of reports concerning tourists flouting rules and causing damage to historic landmarks and cultural heritage sites across Italy over the summer. Last month, a woman clamored over the Trevi Fountain in Rome to refill her water bottle amidst a record-breaking heatwave, a group of German influencers shattered a 150-year-old Enrico Butti statue while filming at a villa in Viggiú, and two German tourists spray-painted soccer-related graffiti onto the Vasari Corridor connected to the Uffizi Galleries in Florence. In June, another tourist was filmed etching his and his partner’s names into a wall at the Colosseum with a key.

Last April, the Italian Ministry of Culture proposed a law that would issue five-figure fines for those who vandalized Italian art, architecture, and cultural heritage sites that passed unanimously during a Ministry Council meeting, but it has not yet been adopted into Italian law.

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