One of Tuscany’s oldest and most idyllic hill-top towns is in turmoil over the building of a large mosque, with a golden dome and an illuminated glass minaret.
For 20 years, the 14,000 residents of Colle di Val d’Elsa have had a community of around 300 Muslims living among them. A small Islamic cultural centre was established years ago, but the atmosphere of peaceful cohabitation has turned sour after proposals for a much bigger centre incorporating a mosque.
A severed pig’s head was left outside the gates of the site, where work has begun. Anti-Muslim graffiti has appeared on walls and local Muslims have been pelted with sausages. Last weekend, 500 people, many of them fascists from a group called Forza Nuova (New Force), staged a protest.
“The things that have been happening are very wrong, and out of character for the town,” said Paolo Brogioni, the mayor of Colle, whose Muslim community now does not venture out on to the cobbled streets.