Three Roman men broke chunks off a Baroque masterpiece, Bernini’s “Four Rivers,” when they tried to cool off in the beloved fountain.
The fountain dominates Piazza Navona and is a popular destination for evening strolls.
Police said three Romans - a 43-year-old and two 33-year-olds - did the damage. The trio had police records for previous vandalism, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.
Two of the men actually went into the fountain, while the third was stopped as he was about to step in, ANSA said. The largest piece measured 2 feet long by 1-1/2 feet across.
A 17-year-old Irish tourist retrieved several fragments of tail and turned them over to police. There was no estimate on how long repairs to the fountain, unveiled in 1651, would take.
Rome’s mayor, Francesco Rutelli, immediately raised the fine for bathing in historic fountains from $83 to $550.
It’s been a tough year for Italy’s landmark fountains. Someone knocked the leg off one of the marble horses on the Neptune Fountain in Florence in June, and earlier, one of the horses lost an ear to vandals.
Italy’s culture minister, Deputy Premier Walter Veltroni, denounced Tuesday’s damage and noted that a new law now awaiting final parliamentary approval would raise penalties for damaging cultural treasures from one year to three years in prison.