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Brawling football fans block Italy's A1 highway

Mayors of Rome and Naples condemn violence.

Clashes between Roma and Napoli 'ultras' football fans on Italy's A1 highway near Arezzo caused major traffic disruption on the country's main north-south artery on Sunday afternoon.

The trouble allegedly began when buses carrying hardcore fans from Rome and Naples crossed paths in the central Tuscany region as they travelled north to matches against Milan and Sampdoria respectively.

The clashes, involving several hundred people according to Italian media reports, led to a section of the A1 being shut down for around 50 minutes and resulted in traffic tailbacks of up to 13 kilometres.

The violence reportedly broke out when Napoli fans who had stopped at a service station saw a coach full of Roma supporters driving past and began pelting the vehicle with rocks and bottles.

The bus then pulled over and the Roma fans got out and walked back to the service station where both sides clashed, with video footage showing 'ultras' wielding baseball bats and hurling smoke bombs.

The incident, which led to at least one person being hospitalised with injuries, was condemned by politicians across the political spectrum, including deputy premier Matteo Salvini who called for the fans to "pay the damages out of their own pockets" and be banned from ever going to stadiums again.

Nicola Molteni, interior undersecretary at Italy's ministry of the interior, described the violence as "shocking" and compared it to "scenes from the Wild West".

The mayors of Rome and Naples, Roberto Gualtieri and Gaetano Manfredi respectively, issued a joint statement describing the violence as "unacceptable", saying: "Rome and Naples are friendly cities that say No to senseless violence."

The clashes took place at the same service station where Lazio supporter Gabriele Sandri was accidentally shot dead by police during clashes between Lazio and Juventus ultras in 2007. Sandri, 26, was hit by a stray bullet while asleep in the back of a car.

The longstanding rivalry between Roma and Napoli ultras boiled over in 2014 when Napoli supporter Ciro Esposito, 31, was shot and killed by a Roma ultra ahead of the Coppa Italia Final.

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