The garbage crisis which struck Naples and the surrounding Campania region, after an incinerator was not finished on time, left over 60,000 metric tons of garbage piled up in the streets, including 5,000 tons in Naples.
On Tuesday the country's Prime Minister Romano Prodi announced that troops would be deployed in the province as an emergency measure to assist with the crisis.
The cleanup operation began near a school and a kindergarten in the hardest-hit city of Afragola. Schools and other facilities in neighboring settlements of Melito, Torre Annunziata, Cercola and Boscoreale remain closed because of uncollected rubbish.
The region has been plagued by similar incidents for 14 years. Officials say local bureaucrats and Campania's organized crime groups, which make a profit by disposing of waste in illegal dumps, were responsible for the crisis.
The prime minister also said that three new incinerators and scores of landfill sites will be built in the nearest future. However, residents are strictly opposed to their construction due to health concerns and have held demonstrations around the proposed sites.
The crisis sparked a wave of protests around the country. The interior ministry said that rapid-response police patrols will be introduced to cope with any future unrest.
Residents of the Pianura neighborhood of Naples have been protesting for twelve days around a previously closed dump, which is due to open. Trash piles are being burnt all around the province.
Dozens of protesters gathered at a port in Sardinia on Thursday evening to prevent a cargo boat, laden with 500 tons of garbage, from being unloaded at the island.