An American tourist who stole and defaced a Roman artefact has mailed it back to Italy with a personal apology note.
This week the National Roman Museum received a parcel from Atlanta, Georgia, which contained a marble rock with the inscription: “To Sam, love Jess, Rome 2017.”
Included with the artefact was a note from the mysterious tourist, who apologised for being “such an American a**hole” when stealing the artefact years ago.
The woman’s letter expressed regret for taking something that was not “rightfully” her own.
“I feel terrible for not only stealing this item from its rightful place, but placing writing on it,” the woman, who signed herself Jess, wrote. “It was a big mistake on my part and only now, as an adult, do I realise just how thoughtless and despicable it was.”
Jess said she attempted to scrub off the message she wrote on the artefact, which was done in black marker, but was unable to remove it.
"I spent hours trying to remove the writing, but without success," she wrote.
It was not clear where the artefact was from, but it’s believed to potentially be marble from the Roman Forum.
Museum director Stéphane Verger told the Il Messaggero newspaper that he was moved by the gesture from the tourist.
"It affected me precisely because she is [a] young woman: she realised she was wrong," he said. "It is a spontaneous gesture, but the fruit of conscious reflection."
"Maybe being cooped up by the coronavirus pandemic made her reflect a bit and jogged her conscience," Mr Verger added.
Jess has become the latest tourist in recent months to return stolen artefacts. In October, a Canadian tourist by the name of Nicole sent back fragments stolen from the ancient city of Pompeii 15 years ago. She claimed the fragments were “cursed”, leading her to want to return them.