Piles of rubbish have been set alight by residents in Naples angered by a continuing row about refuse.
Local dumps are completely full and communities have blocked attempts to build new ones in their areas.
As refuse collectors have nowhere to take the rubbish, heaps have built up since the dispute began almost a fortnight ago.
More than a hundred fires have been reported and environment officials have warned of a risk of toxic smoke.
Firefighters were unable to deal with all the emergency calls, citing staff shortages.
One street was blocked by residents who feared that a rubbish dump in their area might be re-opened.
Naples and the surrounding Campania region have endured a series of refuse crises over the past few years and the European Union began legal action during the last dispute in June 2007.
Although the case is continuing, it is likely that the latest row will trigger a faster response.
A spokeswoman for the European Environment Commissioner, Stavros Dimas, said he was monitoring the situation.
President of the Italian parliamentary commission for the environment, Ermete Realacci, said the row was going from bad to worse.
"The situation in Campania is an outrage that our country cannot afford any more", he said.
He appealed to the authorities to find appropriate dumping sites and to residents to do more to recycle their waste. ( BBC )