The city of Matera in Basilicata, famous for its old abandoned town "I Sassi" used by Mel Gibson as a setting for his recent film "The Passion of Christ" has had an invasion of biblical proportions, not of tourists, as had been hoped, but of locusts. Swarms of these insects have recently ruined any form of outdoor activity and brought tourism in the area to a standstill. So bad is the invasion that the local confederation of business people has asked that a state of calamity be declared in order to limit the economic damage in the area. The unusually hot summer of 2003 is blamed for the multiplication of these endemic insects , Dociostaurus maroccanus, as it offered ideal breeding conditions.
Similar problems are being experienced further to the north in the hills around Parma and Reggio Emilia, in Piedmonte and in the Monte Lessini to the north of Verona where swarms of a different species of locust, Calliptamus italicus, which is active at altitudes between 550 and 800 m, are devouring crops, vines, and even the leaves off the trees.