A protester throws a tear gas canister during a protest in downtown Turin
A protester throws a teargas canister in protest in Turin (Reuters)

Protesters from Italy's Pitchfork movement have clashed with Dutch supporters of the Ajax football team in Milan.

Thousands of Pitchfork demonstrators took to the streets in towns and cities across Italy to voice anger at austerity measures and the continuing recession and to demand reform to the country's struggling economy. Calls ranged from demanding the total removal of the ruling political class to curbing high taxes and fuel prices to dropping the euro.

The Pitchfork movement, which started with a loose group of Sicilian farmers concerned about rising taxes and cuts to agricultural state funds, has evolved into a nationwide umbrella grouping of truckers, small businessman, the unemployed, low-paid workers, rightwing extremists and ultras football supporters.

Violence erupted in Milan when 20 Ajax fans, who had arrived in the city for the Chamions League game against AC Milan, got off their bus and hurled beer cans and insulta at the demonstrators in the central Loreto Square.

Police intervened quickly to break up the fighting. There were no reports of injuries.

Italy's anti-establishment 5-star Movement leader Beppe Grillo - who has no connection with the protests - welcomed reports that police officers took off their riot helmets in a sign of sympathy with demonstrators.

"Italians are on your side. Join them. At the next demonstrations, tell your guys to take off their helmets and fraternise with the citizens," he wrote on his blog. "It will be an extreme, peaceful and revolutionary signal and Italy will change."

Mass demonstrations threw some Italian cities into chaos on Monday with police officers using teargas on protesters who had been throwing rocks and bottles at the headquarters of Italy's tax collection agency.

Roadblocks, demonstrations and sit-ins continued from Milan to Bari in the south.

Shopowners were reportedly threatened by demonstrators to close their stores and join the protest or face violence.

Two demonstrators were arrested in Turin for violence and 32 people were given police warnings for blocking roads. In Savona, near Genova, protesters broke into a bookshop urging the owner to "shut down the store and set fire to the books".

Italian premier Enrico Letta survived a confidence vote after Silvio Berlusconi went over to the opposition.

In response, the organisers of the 9 December Movement announced a national demonstration in Rome next week.

"It's the same old coup d'état," said Danilo Cavani, leader of the movement. "Until those politicians go home, we'll fight at all costs."