Fury in Sicily over mafia-themed tourist tours

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AFP/The Local - [email protected]
Fury in Sicily over mafia-themed tourist tours
Corleone, made famous in film The Godfather, is a stop on the tour.

A travel agency in Sicily offering a 'mafia tour' has found itself in the firing line after local authorities and relatives of victims slammed it for glorifying organized crime.


Easy Trapani lays on half or full-day visits to Mafia museums and places known to have housed infamous mobster chiefs, with a plate of pasta and meatballs thrown in -- much to the fury of anti-mafia campaigners.

Maria Falcone, the sister of an anti-mafia judge killed by the Mafia in 1992, on Wednesday denounced the tour as "an insult to the pain of the victims and a slap in the face to those who labour every day to eradicate the Mafia culture".

And Trapani mayor Vito Damiano has demanded the agency's website be shut down.

"It is madness, an offence to an entire city," he said, according to the Repubblica daily.

Tour manager Gianni Grillo, who accompanies tourists himself to towns such as Corleone - made famous in the Godfather films - insists on the agency's website that the outing is in essence an 'anti-mafia tour' because it raises awareness.

The excursions will give visitors "a broader understanding about the influence of Cosa Nostra crime that continues to affect Sicilian society, and this has to be clear that it is very bad for Sicily and Sicilians," he said.

"The Mafia kills, silence too," reads the site, quoting Italian journalist Peppino Impastato, who publicly denounced the Mafia and was murdered in 1978 aged 30.

In Corleone as well as other towns, the influence of organized crime groups is still felt. In November 2016, the town's council was disbanded over suspected mafia infiltration, along with councils in three other Sicilian towns.

It made headlines again in recent weeks when the son of a notorious mafia boss was asked to act as godfather in a church baptism, prompting calls from the local bishop to declare the ceremony void.

Tour packages can include a chat with a journalist who has covered Mafia stories and visits to houses lived in by Toto Riina, the "boss of bosses" and Bernardo Provenzano, nicknamed "the tractor" for the way he "mowed down" his victims.

Tourists can also book a stop in Castelvetrano, the hometown of Matteo Messina Denaro, a boss known as "Diabolik" who has been on the run since 1993 but is considered the current chief of the Sicilian Mafia.

Last year, EU officials ruled that a Spanish restaurant chain named La Mafia had to change its branding as it was "contrary to principles of morality". Consumer organization Coldiretti has campaigned for years against the use if the word 'mafia' in brand names, though complaints usually relate to chains and restaurants abroad, rather than businesses in Italy such as the travel agency.

"The EU must now stop the commercial use of an infamous 'brand', which exploits stereotypes of mafia organizations, oversimplifying and almost normalizing it. This phenomenon has brought pain and grief throughout Italy," Coldiretti's president said in October.



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