Pompeii is a huge site and hard to monitor, he said. “Even increasing security staff by the hundreds, there will always be some place that you can access without direct control.”
Instead of limiting access to the site, Mr. Osanna said it would be better to inform visitors that they were treading on fragile ground that belonged to all of humanity, “and that any harm done to the site is a harm done to the world’s patrimony.”
In the case of the statue whose toes were damaged in July, the local authorities tracked the man using museum visitor logs. Prosecutors will look through Pompeii’s reservation system to try matching a name to the photograph that caught the selfie-taking tourist out of bounds. The incident took place on July 24, but did not make news in Italy until this past weekend, after it was posted on several social media accounts.
The man who took the photograph, Antonio Irlando, said he thought the woman might have been unaware she was breaking the rules, as the rope that was supposed to block the brick stairs to the roof had been untied and cast to the side.
Mr. Irlando, an architect and president of a local association that monitors the Pompeii sites, said in an interview that after taking the photograph, he tried to reach the woman but she had gone by the time he got to the baths. Instead, he saw another family climbing the steps, unaware that they were off limits.
“I told them it wasn’t safe,” he said. “Who knows how many others went up and no one noticed.”
Mr. Irlando said his database was full of “very extreme” photographs of tourists behaving badly at Pompeii, like walking along the protected ancient walls of the city, or leaning against frescoes created some 2,000 years ago.
“It’s an atavistic vice,” he said. “If you want other photos of people who vandalized the site, just let me know.”