An Italian prince fighting to clean up Rome’s public parks has suggested disgruntled gardeners were behind a bomb planted in his car.

The home-made incendiary device, which had to be defused by a police bomb squad, was discovered by Marco Andrea Doria in his Smart car, parked in a street in Rome, on Wednesday evening.

Mr Doria, a senior official in charge of Rome’s notoriously dysfunctional public parks and historic villas, has denounced idle employees, illegal dumping of rubbish in parks and the theft of statues – earning a string of threats.  

The homemade explosive device was found in the prince's car, parked in a street in Rome

A descendant of the noble Doria family, the prince had also taken action against council gardeners who bunk off and earn extra money working for private clients.

On Wednesday, after the bomb was discovered, he told La Repubblica newspaper that be believed irate council employees were behind the assassination attempt. 

He said he had warned politicians that “Rome’s historic parks are a disaster and whoever tries to change things risks ending up having to have a police escort.

“In the last two years I have denounced many serious irregularities. I’ve clearly annoyed some people.”

Initially there were fears that the bomb might have been targeting the Euro 2020 football match between Switzerland and Italy, held in Rome’s Olympic Stadium a couple of miles away.

The device, which reportedly consisted of a gas canister packed with explosive powder and metal bolts, was connected to the car’s engine.

Rome's parks are often former private estates that belonged to historic villas

Credit: Nick Squires

"I got into the car and turned the key in the ignition but without starting the engine,” he told newspaper Il Messaggero.

“I heard a strange noise after activating the windscreen wipers and immediately sensed an anomaly.”

Mr Doria was appointed to the role in 2018 by Virginia Raggi, the mayor of Rome, who on Twitter condemned the car bomb as “a very serious act” and expressed her “full solidarity”.

Rome's public parks are beautiful but often chronically mismanaged

Credit: Nick Squires

Council officials have in the past revealed that tractors and mowers used to maintain parks were repeatedly vandalised, allegedly by companies who were not awarded their normal contacts when Ms Raggi was elected in 2016.

It was claimed in 2018 that three-quarters of Rome’s 400 council-employed gardeners refused to get their hands dirty, instead opting for cushy desk jobs.

Rome is blessed with a network of large parks, making it one of Europe’s greenest capitals, but they have been neglected for years, resulting in shoulder-high grass and broken benches.

Teams of gardeners employed by the city council are notorious for absenteeism, with some claiming their wages while barely ever turning up for work, part of a system of corruption that has been dubbed “the green mafia”.

Before the car bomb attempt, an unexploded mortar round was left on the bonnet of Mr Doria’s car, a dead hawk was left dangling from his wing mirror and his pet dog, named Diablo or Devil, was killed after eating a wurstel sausage packed with nails.

“He died in my arms. They even tried to set my house on fire,” Mr Doria told La Repubblica.

Last month, he found a large black and white photo of himself with a red cross drawn across his face.