Everything looks so quiet and peaceful in this tiny Sicilian village, but an unexplained fear still follows you during your stay in Corleone. Just at the thought that this territory was once rooled by mafia your body starts shivering with the feeling that someone is watching your steps.
Even after the elimination of mafia in 2006 and the arrest of ‘capo mafia’ Bernardo Provenzano after an astonishing 43 years on the run, the shadows of the Sicilian Mafia still refuse to leave the city.
The arrest of ‘capo mafia’ Bernardo Provenzano.
When Bernardo Provenzano was captured in the hills around the Mafia heartland of Corleone, Provenzano is reported to have said: “You don’t know what you are doing.”
The implication was, say some, that Provenzano believed his links to those high up in the Italian administrative and judicial machinery would protect him in any event.
They did not.
I looked carefully around, people looked quiet, maybe sceptical, the monuments are still there to remind the crimes of the mafia, so people would never forget and never forgive the cruelty.
I wondered how everything started, how was the life of these people that were forced to live in fear, forced to ignore murders and unjustice for so many decades. Walter Bonanno came to give answers to any possible question that visitors of Corleone may have: ‘Mafia has always been presented with romantic touch! But when so many people were killed, it is not romantic….it is hard and cruel!’Corleone became famous for its Mafia connections, its fame started when its name was linked to the name of the mafia Family in the American movie saga “The Godfather.” ( In fact, the Corleone family does not exist, It is a cinematographic fiction.) and unfortunately not for its Anti Mafia which has existed since the formation of the Mafia.
Walter Bonanno gave us a tour around his organization, corleonedialogos-devoted against mafia.
Wall painting by Gaetano Porcasi.
In every floor, every wall painting by Gaetano Porcasi (Sicilian painter who has devoted his life-long career to Sicily and in particular to all the victims of Mafia) speaks for itself. His historical paintings dating back 1900 to now days denounce the violence and oppression of the Mafia.
Walter narrated us all the story of anti-mafia movement, a movement that continues to this day, to a wider audience. He wants more people to know about the courageous men and women, many of them martyrs, who dared to stand up to the mafia’s intimidation and violence. He is determined ‘the tourist’ should ask more about the work of Anti-mafia. I still remember how passionate he was. I was listening and at the same admiring him, I felt a great admire for those heroes, for those amazing spirits that dared to sacrifice their own life for the justice…..for a better world!
Placido Rizzotto, a trade union leader murdered by the mafia in Sicily in 1948
“Placido Rizzotto (Corleone, January 2, 1914 – March 10, 1948) was an Italian socialist peasant and trade union leader from Corleone, who was assassinated by Sicilian Mafia boss Luciano Leggio. Pieces of Rizzotto’s mutilated body were discovered two years later at the bottom of a cliff with his limbs chained up, and a bullet hole in his head. When he was killed, Rizzotto was doing activist work with farm laborers, trying to help them take over unfarmed land on large estates in the area.
On May 24, 2012, nearly 65 years after his death, his remains were reburied in Sicily with state honors. The Italian government recognized in this way his achievement in standing up against the Italian mafia.
The origin of the word “mafia” is uncertain, but it was used in the Sicilian dialect to mean beautiful, proud, something worthy of respect. Under the feudal land system, strongmen who collected rents for landowners and helped settle disputes in the absence of local government or courts came to be called mafiosi.”
Mafiosi themselves became landowners after the unification of Italy in 1861 brought land reform. By 1875 the strongest political power on the island was the hierarchy of bosses and underlings that eventually was known as the Mafia. To their previous work they added delivering votes and protection services against bandits, and ultimately against themselves. When they moved from the countryside into the burgeoning cities, infiltrating industries and bureaucracies, they became the de facto power of the entire island.
Anti-Mafia feeling began to build in the early 1980s, when Tot Riina launched and won a brutal war to become Sicily’s capo dei capi—boss of bosses. But he broke time-honored rules by also killing family members of his rivals. In revenge the losers broke the code of silence and began to talk to authorities. With the testimonies of these “penitents,” a pool of prosecutors led by Giovanni Falcone, a Palermo judge, won convictions of nearly 400 mafiosi.
Giovanni Falcone’s assasination.
Then, on May 23, 1992, Falcone was returning to Palermo from Rome on what was supposed to have been a secret trip. He was driving toward the city with his wife and several bodyguards when someone watching from the coastal hills used a remote device to set off powerful explosives along the highway, blowing up Falcone’s car. Others who had fought the Mafia—judges, businessmen, journalists, priests—had been assassinated, but Falcone’s death galvanized Sicily. Thousands marched in Palermo shouting “Basta! Enough!” One woman recalled, “It was as if a light had been switched on in a dark room.”
Paolo Borsellino’s assasination.
Two months later a bomb killed Falcone’s judicial colleague, Paolo Borsellino, as he arrived at his mother’s Palermo apartment for Sunday lunch. This was “basta” for Tommaso Buscetta, a mafioso who had provided information to both judges, whom he came to admire. Now he told his greatest secrets: how the Mafia was being protected by many of Italy’s politicians. These revelations, and others, ultimately brought down the national government. Riina’s driver then gave information finally leading to the arrest and imprisonment of the boss of bosses, a man even his own followers had called the “Beast.