A man threw a bucket of red paint or dye into Rome's Trevi Fountain on Friday, coloring the waters of the 18th-century monument bright red in front of a crowd of astonished tourists and residents.
The man escaped, leaving the fountain, which normally runs on a closed cycle, spouting red water. Police arrived and technicians briefly shut off the water before restoring a clear flow.
Experts said the baroque fountain was not permanently damaged and the marble statues depicting the sea deity Neptune on his chariot had not absorbed the color.
"There shouldn't be any relevant damage," said Eugenio La Rocca, superintendent for Rome's monuments.
The monument, designed by architect Nicola Salvi, has been a tourist hotspot since Federico Fellini's 1960 movie "La Dolce Vita," which featured actress Anita Ekberg seductively splashing in its waters. Many visitors flip a coin into the fountain; tradition says that doing so promises a prompt return to the Eternal City.
The news agency ANSA reported that a box was found near the fountain containing leaflets by a group that claimed responsibility for the act. The leaflets said the red paint was a protest for expenses incurred in organizing the Rome Film Festival and symbolically referred to the event's red carpet, ANSA reported.
Rome's monuments are monitored with security cameras and police, but the risk of isolated vandalism persists, said Silvio Di Francia, city councilman for culture. "We are obviously in a city full of tourists so the gesture of an agitator is always a potential problem," he said.