Parkour Group Damages Building in the Historic Italian City of Matera

Team Phat posted a video showing one of its members breaking a stone protruding from a wall

Ancient city illuminated by sunrise
Located in southern Italy, Matera is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Massimo Colombo

During a recent trip to Italy, a London-based parkour team bounded through the streets of Matera, a city in the country’s Basilicata region—and damaged a historic building while traversing the terrain.

Team Phat is a nine-person troupe that practices parkour, a sport that involves navigating nimbly through man-made spaces. In practice, this translates to leaping, climbing, flipping and twisting over obstacles.

The group has about 240,000 followers on Instagram and nearly 60,000 subscribers on YouTube. Recently, the team posted an Instagram video of 23-year-old Devon McIntosh jumping off the roof of a building in Matera.

In the short clip, he appears to be trying to land on a stone protruding from a nearby wall. But as soon as his foot touches the stone, it breaks off. (McIntosh also falls to the ground, clutching his ankle.)

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Matera has a sprawling history. Humans began living there roughly 10,000 years ago, during the Paleolithic period, making Matera one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Matera is also renowned for its unique architecture: It encompasses a series of cave dwellings that were carved into the side of a ravine. The city’s “Sassi” homes and rock churches were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993. In 2019, Matera was also deemed a “European Capital of Culture.”

Since Team Phat started making headlines, the group has been receiving criticism for damaging part of the historic city.

“I love you guys, but it was really wrong to break that rock that likely had a lot of history and pride for the owners and original builders,” one Instagram user commented on the group’s video.

“I am Italian and have been practicing parkour for almost eight years,” wrote another. “Matera should not be used as a parkour park; that stone could have been there before the discovery of America or even earlier. This city is a UNESCO [World] Heritage site for a reason. We should enjoy our 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.”

So far, Team Phat doesn’t appear to have publicly responded to the complaints, and UNESCO has not yet weighed in.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Matera mayor’s office said the city was “aware of the issue” and looking into the damage, reports the Washington Post’s Annabelle Timsit.

“Technicians are checking the building, so actions will be taken based on their reports,” the spokesman, Giuseppe Camporeale, tells the publication.

This is not the first time Team Phat has come under fire. The group says it was banned from Venice after a member jumped from the top of a building into a canal last year. At the time, the city’s mayor, Luigi Brugnaro, expressed his outrage in a post on social media.

The team members’ experiences in Venice seem to have prompted them to visit Matera. In a longer version of the Matera video, one member says: “As some of you know, we’ve been banned from Venice, so we can never go back. So, we’ve come to the closest thing to it.”

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