The man, who is originally from Bulgaria, lives in Bristol, reported The Telegraph.
The tourist was filmed by an onlooker etching his and his girlfriend’s name into a wall of the 2,000-year-old monument last Friday. Wearing a blue floral print shirt, he used a key to write “Ivan + Hayley 23” in full view of the public.
He turned around and grinned as an angry bystander asked: “Are you serious, man?”
The video titled “A*****e tourist carves name in Colosseum in Rome” was uploaded to YouTube on Friday by the man who filmed the scenes. It went viral across social media, garnering international headlines as people roundly condemned him.
Police have not named the suspect but the Carabinieri – military police for the Italian armed forces – said the man has been identified and they were “a couple who are resident in England”.
In an official statement, it said they identified them “through traditional investigations and photographic comparisons the person accused of etching their name and that of his girlfriend on the walls of the Colosseum”.
The man could face a fine of up to €15,000 (£12,850) and a prison sentence of up to five years if convicted for defacing the historical monument under Italian laws.
Rome’s Colosseum is a Unesco world heritage site where gladiators fought with one another and also battelled wild animals including lions, leopards, bulls and ostriches. Its construction began under the reign of the emperor Vespasian in the first century AD.
Italian police will send a note to the suspect’s residence in England to inform him that he is under investigation, according to Il Messaggero. The woman is, however, not being investigated.
The Italian culture minister Gennaro Sangiuliano thanked the police for identifying the alleged suspect of the “uncivilised and absurd act committed at the Colosseum”.
“It was an act that offended those around the world who appreciate the value of archaeology, monuments and history,” he said. “Now I hope justice will take its course by rigorously applying the laws.”
The minister said that the government was considering a law that would impose stringent punishment on those found guilty of defacing or damaging the country’s historical and cultural heritage sites.
“Those who cause damage will pay,” he said.
It is not the first time tourists were investigated and punished for defacing a historical site.
In 2014, a Russian tourist was fined €20,000 (£17,000) for engraving a “K” on a wall, and given a suspended four-year jail sentence.
The following year, two American tourists were also cited for aggravated damage after they carved their names in the monument.
Italian tourism lobby Federturismo, backed by statistics bureau ISTAT, has said 2023 is shaping up as a record for visitors to Italy, surpassing even pre-pandemic levels that hit a high in 2019.