An Italian prince who appeared in a Bond film is leading a protest against plans to build a rubbish dump close to the remains of an imperial Roman villa.
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Urbano Barberini, one of whose ancestors was a pope, is fighting plans for the dump in an old quarry half a mile from Hadrian’s Villa, a vast palatial complex that was built by the emperor in the second century AD on the fringes of the town of Tivoli, near Rome.
The prince, whose full name is Urbano Riario Sforza Barberini Colonna di Sciarra, is mobilising conservation groups to overturn the plans, which he says will compromise not only the World Heritage-listed site but also an ancient necropolis and a Roman aqueduct which still brings water into the city from the mountains to its east.
He can draw on plenty of experienced for the campaign – five years ago he successfully opposed the establishment of another rubbish dump in the same area.
“It feels like a horror film. Just when you think the monster is dead, you feel it grabbing your ankle and you realise that the monster, in this case the plan for a new dump, has returned,” said the prince, who makes a living as a professional actor and appeared in Casino Royale alongside Daniel Craig and Mads Mikkelsen.
The aristocrat, who lives in the area and is a member of Tivoli town council, is pulling together heritage groups such as WWF, Italia Nostra (Our Italy) and the Italian Environmental Fund to try to halt work on the dump.
The authorities insist that the facility is being built to take rubble and other “inert detritus” from villages that were devastated by the earthquake that hit central Italy in August 2016.
But campaigners are suspicious of those claims and fear that the dump will be used for general waste.
Rome is suffering from a rubbish disposal crisis and new waste facilities are desperately needed.
Even if the dump is not used for other waste, protesters say the chosen site is completely inappropriate.
“It’s the worst location in the world. You can’t build a dump on top of a Roman necropolis, next to Hadrian’s Villa, and above aquifers that feed a Roman aqueduct,” the prince told the news agency Adnkronos.
“You run the risk of contaminating Rome’s water. They are going to ruin the countryside and it’s just not acceptable.”
The Barberini family rose to prominence in the 17th century and managed to have one of their kinsmen, Cardinal Maffeo Barberini, elected as Pope Urban VIII in 1623.
Their distinctive coat of arms, which consists of three bees, can be seen on palaces and churches all over Rome.