Rome has been invaded by Gauls, Visigoths and vandals over the centuries, but the Eternal City is now grappling with a rampaging force of an entirely different sort: Rubbish-seeking wild boars.
Entire families of wild boars have become a daily sight in Rome, as groups of up to 30 beasts, young and old, emerge from the vast parks surrounding the city to trot down traffic-clogged streets in search of food in Rome’s notoriously overflowing rubbish bins.
Posting wild boar videos on social media has become something of a sport as exasperated Romans capture the scavengers marching past their stores, strollers or playgrounds.
As Rome gears up for a local election next weekend, the wild boar invasion has been used as a political weapon to attack Mayor Virginia Raggi over the city’s formidable garbage collection problems.
But experts say the issue is more complicated and tied at least in part to a booming boar population.
Italy’s main agriculture lobby, Coldiretti, estimates there are over two million wild boars in Italy. As many as 6000 are estimated to live in Rome city parks.
The region of Lazio surrounding Rome launched a program in 2019 to capture the beasts in park cages for slaughter, and last month approved a new decree to allow selective hunting of boars in some parks, which until now had been strictly forbidden.
The local authority says the region needs to increase the boar cull from 700 over two years to at least 1000 annually to get the situation under control.
In Italy’s rural areas, hunting wild boar is a popular sport and dishes like pappardelle pasta with ‘cinghiale’ sauce are a regional speciality.
But while animal rights groups have been adamantly opposed to mass culling, those beliefs are not shared by some urban residents.
“I am afraid of walking on the sidewalk, because on one side there are the dumpsters for the rubbish and they (the boars) jump on me,” said Grazia, a 79-year-old grandmother waiting outside a primary school to pick up her grandchildren. She did not give her last name.
Just down the street, a family of wild boars was snorting through the rubbish.
Her concerns are not misplaced: Wild boars can weigh up to 100 kilograms, reach 80 centimetres in height and measure 150 centimetres in length – a not-insignificant threat especially to the elderly and young children.
“We have been invaded here,” lamented Pino Consolati, who runs a restaurant on a busy street corner in Rome’s Monte Mario neighbourhood.
He said families of wild boars routinely wander through his outdoor eating area looking for food. One day this week, he said, his sister found 30 boars outside her shoe store when she left at 8pm.
“It is not a pleasant situation,” Mr Consolati said, shrugging his shoulders.