Parkour group damages historic Italian building in failed stunt

In Matera, Italy, the traceurs — the name of those who practice parkour, which consists of jumping, running, climbing and more to travel across structures — recorded themselves performing a stunt on a building and causing a protruding stone to fall off.

The city of Matera in southern Italy is thought to be among the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Its stone-made buildings lie atop a hill above a ravine, while its millenniums-old cave dwellings helped make Matera a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Because of its history, the city has attracted attention from adventurers and Hollywood: Scenes from Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” were filmed there, as were parts of Patty Jenkins’s “Wonder Woman.”

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But Matera recently attracted attention of a different kind, after a London-based parkour group performed stunts there - and damaged a historic building in the process.

The stunt comes amid increasing scrutiny of the toll of human activity - from tourists to influencers, street artists and athletes - on historic cities and monuments. Many cities have put in place measures to curb overtourism, while some have banned visitors from certain hot spots because of reports of bad behavior.

In Matera, the traceurs - the name of those who practice parkour, which consists of jumping, running, climbing and more to travel across structures - recorded themselves performing a stunt on a building and causing a protruding stone to fall off.

“Hide the evidence,” a voice behind the camera can be heard instructing a member of the team in a video published in April by the globe-trotting parkour group Team Phat.

Neither the city, nor UNESCO, nor Team Phat responded to requests for comment from The Washington Post on Tuesday.

Team Phat previously claimed responsibility for a stunt in Venice in which a man threw himself off a building into a canal - prompting the mayor to call him an “idiot” and vow to arrest him. The group later said it received a fine and was banned from the city.

In the 23-minute long version of the video filmed in Matera, a member of Team Phat can be heard saying, “We’ve been banned from Venice, so we can never go back. So, we’ve come to the closest thing to it.”

The video shows the traceurs performing stunts across Matera. Eventually, one of them can be heard suggesting to Devon McIntosh, a member of the team, that he use a stone jutting from the side of a building to launch himself to another rooftop.

“It’s stable enough that you can just hang on it, but I’m scared it could just break,” the person can be heard telling McIntosh. “You’re a bit lighter than me, so it might be more of a you challenge. … Get ready to jump.”

In the video, McIntosh first successfully jumps on the stone and launches himself from it onto the opposite rooftop. Two others are then filmed doing the same jump, with one appearing to linger on the stone. Then, the footage shows McIntosh doing the jump again - and the stone gives away under his feet, while he plummets to the ground. He exclaims to the camera that he hurt his ankle, and later shows what appear to be injuries on his thigh and elbow.

“We were really trusting that thing too much,” he says.

A clip of the stunt, which has been viewed 2.4 million times since it was posted on Instagram two weeks ago, sparked angry reactions online, with many users commenting that parkour should be practiced with more care for the surrounding environment.

“Even if the spots are crazy Matera should not be used as a parkour park, that stone could have been there before the discovery of America or even earlier,” wrote one commenter, who said he is Italian and practices parkour.

“It was really wrong to break that rock that likely had a lot of history and pride for the owners and original builders,” another commenter said.

As travel has become more affordable and accessible, reports of bad behavior from visitors have increased. Last year, the manager of a villa in northern Italy said a 150-year-old statue toppled over and shattered after German tourists tried to take a picture with it, according to Reuters. In 2022, a Saudi visitor drove a Maserati down the world-famous Spanish Steps in Rome, damaging them, according to police; two weeks later, an American tourist threw an electric scooter down the Spanish Steps, causing about $27,000 worth of damage.

People have also been criticized for using monuments as sports arenas. In 2021, a Singaporean man was charged with willfully interfering with a national monument after he wakeboarded at a war memorial in the city state, according to the Straits Times.

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