In a scene described by Il Messaggero newspaper as akin to “a horror movie”, the men, a Moroccan and a Roman, also threatened to set themselves alight after police asked them to move their stalls because they were working illegally.
As horrified tourists looked on, other stall holders joined the revolt, with one balancing from the terrace of the nearby Campidoglio.
“They call us squatters, but we are artists who have been working on the streets for several years while waiting for the Rome authorities to announce an open competition [for trade licences],” one was quoted by TGCom24 as saying.
“We have been waiting for this since 2007. We were told we could work here until the next competition announcement.”
Others have reportedly been told that they won’t be able to stay at Piazza Navona until at least April 28th while the square hosts a large screen to broadcast the canonization of popes John Paul II and John XXIII.
Only five have permission to work at Piazza Navona, while 120 are said to be working illegally, Il Messaggero said.
Though they describe themselves as artists, the men mostly selling prints of Italian cities and monuments bought from Chinese vendors, Il Messaggero reported.