Scores of protesters in Lyon had a go derailing a major rail project on the agenda of the Monti-Hollande summit.
The two leaders made strides with a plan to build a new high-speed line between Lyon and Turin, saying they want it in place by 2028.
The price tag though has made many opponents balk when so many cuts are being made elsewhere.
Monique Chabert, the deputy mayor of Chimilin which is on the proposed route said: “This project is useless and destructive, and it costs 24-billion euros just for infrastructure. Why shouldn’t public money be used for other things in times of crisis? That is something all vigilant citizens have the right to ask.”
They came from both countries for the demo, but hundreds of Italian protesters were held up by police at the frontier for several hours.
When they eventually arrived, many complained of being beaten by police who used pepper spray to keep them away from the demonstration.