It’s not only British cities that have a problem with the proverbial man in a white van.
In the medieval centre of Padua, in Italy’s north-eastern Veneto region, l’uomo nel furgone bianco has crashed into the city’s best-loved monument, The Statue of the Cat, and smashed it to pieces.
The statue was a replica of a stone lion, a war trophy placed on a plinth outside the church of Sant’Andrea in 1209 to mark the highest point in the city.
But in the midst of an apparently clumsy manoeuvre, the white van smacked the column in the narrow medieval street and sent the sculpture crashing to the floor.
It’s not known if the unnamed driver had his mobile phone glued to his ear, but that wouldn’t surprise anyone who has watched Italian drivers in action.
The Padua city councillor for culture, Andrea Colasio, told reporters: “I’m extremely upset. It’s absolute idiocy that a big van should make a manoeuvre like this. Padua is a delicate, vulnerable and complex city... it needs to be treated with kid gloves.”
But he tried to put a brave face on things. “Fortunately we think the pieces of the cat can be re-assembled. We will photograph the pieces, and the statue will be restored in a few months.”
Andrea Ragona, the local spokesman for the national environmental pressure group Legambiente, called the accident “a grave insult” to the city. He called for the entire historic centre to be closed to traffic. But that doesn’t seem very likely in the land of the automobile.