Italian cops nab alleged vandal of famous fountain

Associated Press
FILE - In this Sunday, Sept. 4, 2011 file photo two chunks of marble are missing from the Moor fountain in Rome's Piazza Navona Sunday, Sept. 4, 2011. Police said Monday they have detained the alleged vandal who knocked two chunks of marble off a statue in Rome's famed Piazza Navona. Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno pledged no clemency for the man, saying Italy must protect and defend its artistic treasures. Security camera footage showed the man climbing in the fountain early Saturday and repeatedly attacking the statue, one of four large faces at the edge of the fountain, with a large rock. The damaged Moro Fountain, however, was a 19th-century copy. (AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito, File)
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ROME (AP) — Police said Monday they had detained a man who confessed to knocking two chunks of marble off a statue in Rome's famed Piazza Navona and of trying to damage the nearby Trevi Fountain.

The suspect was picked up during a routine patrol near Piazza Navona late Sunday, a day after the vandalism took place, carabinieri officials told a press conference. Police noticed him because he was wearing the same white sneakers worn during the attack, images of which were captured by security camera footage.

Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno urged no clemency for the suspect, saying Italy must protect its artistic heritage with an "exemplary punishment."

The footage showed the man climbing in the Moro Fountain on the southern end of Piazza Navona early Saturday and repeatedly attacking the statue — one of four large faces at the edge of the fountain — with a large cobblestone and then walking away.

The damage is on a 19th-century copy of the original Moro Fountain by 16th-century artist Giacomo della Porta. Bernini added the central figure in the 1600s.

On Monday restoration work began to reattach the pieces, with the damaged fountain being drained and the broken pieces being cleaned.

"There are technicians from the cultural heritage office who will make a first assessment of the time and cost," said Dino Gasperini, Rome city councillor in charge of the city's cultural heritage. "We are talking about thousands of euros."

Col. Giuseppe Canio La Gala of the carabinieri's art patrimony squad said the man had confessed to both the Piazza Navona attack and of throwing the rock at the Trevi Fountain a few hours later. He missed that target and the Trevi Fountain wasn't damaged.

Alemanno said such a crime cannot be treated lightly.

"I hope that this criminal is given an exemplary punishment, including jailtime, because it's necessary to make clear the gravity of the crime to defend our artistic patrimony," he said in a statement.

Tourists in Piazza Navona on Monday morning seemed to concur.

"It is a crime," said British tourist Norman Rose. "I don't know how important it is, but it is a crime against the values of civilization."

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