Dutch hooligans riot, vandalize Barcaccia fountain

Fans of the Rotterdam soccer team Feyenoord ran riot in Rome’s historic center on Thursday, throwing bottles and flares and causing serious damage to the Barcaccia fountain in Piazza di Spagna. Built by Pietro Bernini, father of famous architect and sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini, between 1627 and 1629, the fountain just reopened in September after an extensive 10-month restoration. Now there are more than 110 gouges, scratches and chips on the travertine marble and several large chunks broken off the edge of the central basin.

On Friday morning public works crews sifted through broken glass, bottles and assorted trash to recover all the fragments they could find in the water. City restorers assessed the damage and it does not look good. There are broken pieces as large as 8 by 3.5 centimeters (3 by 1.4 inches). Even if the larger pieces can be reattached cleanly — not an easy feat with the highly porous travertine — the chips and scratches will likely remain. Expert Anna Maria Cerioni says that the damage to the fountain is permanent.

It’s unclear what set this barbarians off other than the usual metric ton of alcohol and whatever idiotic sports rivalry. They rampaged through the beautiful and historic Campo de’ Fiori piazza on Wednesday evening, throwing bottles at riot police and leaving the square covered in garbage. Over the two days of clashes between rioters and police, 10 police officers and three Dutch fans were wounded. A total of 28 were arrested and 19 of them have already been convicted and sentenced to six months in jail or a $50,000 fine.

All of this happened before the actual Europa League match between Feyenoord and Roma on Thursday afternoon. Additional police were dispatched to the Olympic Stadium for the event, in the expectation that violence might break out between the opposing teams’ fans, but nothing happened. The score was tied 1-1, Feyenoord moves on in the bracket and the 6,000 Dutch fans got on planes and headed home with no further trouble.

The mayor of Rome, Ignazio Marino, is incandescent with rage. He said that while several banks and organizations have contacted him offering financial support for the restoration, he thinks the Netherlands or the Feyenoord club should pay for the damage according to the principle of “who breaks it buys it.” The Dutch embassy’s public statements (you can see them on their Facebook page) focus on bringing the responsible parties to justice. “Soccer must be a party where there’s no room for violence. The Italian authorities can count on the total cooperation and committment of the Netherlands to ensure than the culpable are punished.” They also said an investigation has been opened in Holland to identify the perpetrators.

They haven’t excluded paying for it, however. When the mayor told the press after a long conversation with Dutch ambassador Michiel Den Hond that “they don’t feel responsible for the economic outlay to repair Bernini’s fountain,” Aart Heering, the ambassador’s spokesperson, said the mayor’s comment was premature, that before saying the Netherlands doesn’t want to pay for the damage, first the damages have to be quantified and the perpetrators identified.

The Feyenoord club’s general manager Eric Gudde described the rioting as “utterly reprehensible behavior … that fills every normal thinking Dutchman with horror.” There’s a bit of the No True Scotsman fallacy in the club’s reaction. The rioters aren’t real fans, you see, but rather lowlives who unlike the real fans went to Rome with the intent to “misbehave.”

Film of the clashes between rioters and police in Piazza di Spagna on Thursday:

14 thoughts on “Dutch hooligans riot, vandalize Barcaccia fountain

  1. This kind of senseless destruction angers me at the best of times, but when it’s a cultural and historical artifact being damaged it makes it so much worse. To think that the fountain has survived nearly 400 years of human activity, only to be almost destroyed in one afternoon by these morons. I hope the perpetrators are found, made to pay for the damage and barred from the country for life.

  2. I would just like to point out that this kind of thing happens in Rome partially because Roma and Lazio the two roman teams have some of the most notorious fans. The Netherlands and Italy have this issue more than any other counties in Western Europe

  3. Hmmm, sounds like someone must have been there to make such a specific disclaimer. Any chance of tracing this post back to the particular “anonymous” who sent it?

  4. personale i hate soccer ….its all about money .the italians see there change to cash as much as posible ………

  5. No not true…Italians let every Tom DICK and Harry into the country because they are proud of their history !!!
    The fountain had just recently open to the public. It had been closed for
    cleaning and renovation for two years. Evidently, Dynd is not a frequent traveller to Rome to know that.
    Nevertheless,there is no excuse for senseless destruction especially to heritage. Worse than the devastation is using the fountain as a despicable garabage deposit showing no respect and value.
    Excuse me for what purpose ????? What statement did you want to make???

  6. That “Bravo” was directed to the above comment condemning the reprehensible conduct of ANY visitor to a country to full of history and art and willing to allow others to experience it.
    I am appalled by the damage to this irreplaceable treasure!

  7. I could not agree with you more, Abbi. Bravo!
    I am trying to “reply” to comments already made but they seem to be listing as entered time wise …

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