The three men, aged 30 to 32, stole the copper from a cemetery in the town of Sant'Antimo, north of Naples, Il Mattino reported on Sunday.
But turning off the lights did not go unnoticed and the trio was caught by police shortly afterwards, the newspaper said. They were promptly arrested while the copper was returned to the cemetery, where workers were yesterday trying to rewire the system.
Theft of the metal has been on the rise across Italy, with 2,720 people detained in the first six months of last year alone. Copper theft has cost the country €31 million in three years, according to figures released in November.
In December a man burnt to death while trying to steal copper from an abandoned factory in Benevento, southern Italy.