MILAN (Reuters) - Police clashed with rioters in Naples on Saturday during protests against the visit of Northern League leader Matteo Salvini, whose party has been known for its anti-southern rhetoric.
Police used water cannon and tear gas to disperse an estimated two to three hundred people who broke away from a peaceful march and started throwing rocks and petrol bombs.
People in black hoods and helmets uprooted street signs and set fire to knocked-down garbage bins in the western part of the city, near the football stadium.
Naples mayor Luigi de Magistris this week backed protesters who had tried to stop Salvini from speaking in Naples but Interior Minister Marco Minniti stepped in asking local police to ensure the visit took place.
Salvini was filmed eight years ago singing an offensive song against Neapolitans at a Northern League event. But he has since dropped the anti-southern rhetoric and plans to run for prime minister at Italy's next general elections in 2018.
In an effort to broaden the party's support base after taking over as leader from Northern League founder Umberto Bossi in 2013, Salvini has apologised for his party's traditional anti-southern stance.
"I want to go to Naples' periphery where life is real, unlike that of posh neighbourhoods," Salvini told supporters in Naples on Saturday.
The League was founded in the 1980s and used to campaign for the independence of northern Italy.
(Reporting by Valentina Za; Editing by Dominic Evans)