El Mafioso

How can I visit Italy and not mention the mafia? How can I avoid this subject when I am driving near cities such as Corleone, made famous by the Godfather, and hearing stories of ‘expensive concrete’, referring to its reinforcement with teeth and bones. We decided to avoid Naples because of the garbage “problem”, whereby the Camorra, the Naples based mafia in charge of garbage disposal (among many other enterprises), has closed down the city dump as a result of the discovery of their improper disposal of toxic waste. You can imagine the repercussions for the city of Naples, having to live in their waste for months, some resorting to burning piles of garbage in the street. When those involved include some very important political and influential people, the real solution is not an easy one, and most don’t expect an end to the problem anytime soon.

But this is only the tip of the iceberg. In a country where mafia has existed for at least 150 years, domination and suppression is a way of life. The different “Mafioso” organizations throughout Italy, the Sicilian Mafia, or Cosa Nostra, the Camorra (out of Naples), the 'Ndrangheta (from Calabria) and the Sacra Corona Unita (from Puglia), have infiltrated the economy to such a level that mob activity now accounts for the single largest sector of the nation's economy. With stakes in construction, high fashion, illicit drugs and toxic waste disposal, the Camorra alone has international reach.

This malign grip is something that everyone lives with, yet doesn’t talk about (omerta), especially to foreigners. However, there seems to be a change coming about. Last year, Roberto Saviano released an up-close account of the inner workings of the Camorra, shedding light on the Camorra’s chillingly significant role in the global economy. Shortly after the release of “Gamorra”, he was granted police protection and hitherto operates in relative obscurity.

After reading the translated version, I was shocked to discover just how deep the roots of the mafia permeated to the very core of Italy. Even though we had no personal encounters, I’m sure that by taking a ferry in Sicily, by buying clothes at an outlet store, and by enjoying the “garbage-free” zone of Tuscany, we were a lot closer to the mafia than we would like to think.