Skip to main content

Historic building in Italy damaged by parkour tourists

Matera, Italy, has been a UNESCO World Heritage site for more than 30 years. (Poike / iStockphoto / Getty Images / FILE via CNN Newsource) Matera, Italy, has been a UNESCO World Heritage site for more than 30 years. (Poike / iStockphoto / Getty Images / FILE via CNN Newsource)

Jumping from building to building in an ancient city might seem like a dream for those who practice parkour — a sport that involves making it past obstacles — but it can cause damage to historic buildings.

A London-based parkour group, Team Phat, visited the ancient Italian city of Matera, running, climbing and leaping through its streets and over its precious structures.

One of the freerunners caused a segment of a historic building to fall off, sending both himself and the building part crashing to the ground.

Matera, a city of stone which dates back to the Paleolithic era, is located in the Basilicata region in Southern Italy.

In 1993, it was granted UNESCO World Heritage status and was the European Capital of Culture in 2019.

video of parkour stunts in the ancient city was posted by Team Phat on YouTube two months ago, along with a caption explaining that they were “in the beautiful city of Matera” where one of their members, Devon McIntosh, “had a scary fall that could have been really bad.”

The video shows the freerunner jumping off a building and attempting to use a stone ledge to help him get to another building across the street. But the ledge could not withstand his force and dramatically broke off.

An off-camera member of the team suggests that they “hide the evidence” and McIntosh shows his injury to his leg.

The video has attracted many critical comments on social media. “This city is a UNESCO heritage site for a reason,” wrote an Instagram user named Bruno Burke. “We should enjoy our [parkour] discipline as much as possible, but we should also watch where we step, not only for safety but also for respect of culture and history.”

Misbehaving visitors

Many of Matera’s districts and habitable caves were renovated in the second half of the 20th century, as the city regained its charm and became a popular Instagrammable hotspot.

Unsurprisingly, international cinema also pays the occasional visit. The 2021 James Bond movie, “No time to Die” features an exciting car chase through Matera’s streets.

The well curated remains of the ancient cave churches, fortified farmhouses and districts make Matera a city of universal value, according to UNESCO.

CNN has reached out to Matera’s police force for comment on the parkour incident.

Team Phat’s behavior has raised further questions about the conduct of travelers at sites of architectural beauty. At the start of the video, one of the Team Phat members said: “As some of you know, we’ve been banned from Venice and we can never go back.”

In March 2023, a Team Phat member jumped into a canal in Venice, following which Mayor Luigi Brugnaro commented on X: “This ‘subject’ should be given a certificate of STUPIDITY…. We are trying to identify him to denounce him and his companion that made the stupid video for social media.”

On April 25, entry fee tickets were introduced in Venice. Brugnaro said: “Venice is the first city in the world to start on this journey which could become an example for other fragile cities that must be preserved.”

In March, a historic district in Kyoto, Japan, announced that it is banning tourists from entering, following local frustrations about visitors’ poor behavior and failure to follow Japanese customs and etiquette. Top Stories

Local Spotlight