It took a group of Chinese tourists a considerable amount of time and thought to break into a well-guarded Rome archaeological site and enjoy a beer.
On Friday, June 2, police officer Stefano Bisconti was enjoying a beer outside the Pantheon when several Chinese tourists came up to him. He declined the offer.
“They smiled a lot, and I wondered if they might have something to do with the Colosseum, which is across the square,” Bisconti told Italian news agency Ansa.
His curiosity turned into disgust when the group said they were going to drink the beer in the Colosseum, which is quite literally only a stone’s throw away from the Pantheon.
“Nothing in my job prepares you for the experience,” Bisconti said. “The curiosity was the worst part.”
But the Colosseum wasn’t the only thing stirring in the group’s blood: Two of the tourists approached the bar and tried to buy a beer.
“When I spotted that the drinkers were not foreigners, I realized there was something peculiar here,” Bisconti said.
So he approached the group and asked if he could keep them in custody until their fellow officers arrived to carry out the investigation.
He was called in by police at the Colosseum, which is quite a distance from the Pantheon, to investigate the incident.
He described the situation this way to the Journal of Archaeological Science:
The drinking group only spoke Italian, and at one point a Chinese tourist held up the beer so [his] co-travelers could enjoy a couple of sips. As a result, I was able to identify the man most responsible for the breach of security.
The officer said he decided not to take the Chinese to court for breaking the law at that location.
“I thought it would be unfair,” he said. “[The tourists] are very nice to me.”
But even after learning about the circumstances of the tourists’ incident, many Americans are still baffled as to how some tourists can find a way around security at a protected archaeological site like the Colosseum.
Rolandis Barrow, the daughter of the former president of the American Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, says that the area is well-guarded and safe.
“[The Colosseum] is a protected monument,” Barrow said. “It’s one of the most fantastic Italian archaeological sites, but every year we have tours going in there, and it’s as safe as it can be for tourists.”
In fact, the famous ancient ruins’ management authority, the Roman National Foundation, does not even require visitors to carry ID cards.
The fact that tourists are not obligated to have identification may explain the group’s lack of previous experience in tourist destinations, despite their apparent local knowledge.
“You can have an understanding of the art and the process, but if you know nothing about a country’s security or protection mechanisms, there is a risk that you could break the law at any time,” Barrow said.