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  • Writer's pictureThe Sicilian Wanderer

The mafia in Sicily: origin, growth, and the fight against organized crime.

The mafia in Sicily: origin, growth, and the fight against organized crime.

Welcome to our travel blog! Today, we're taking you on a journey that's a bit different from our usual ones, exploring a topic that has deeply marked the history and culture of Sicily: the mafia. In this post, "The mafia in Sicily: origin, growth, and the fight against organized crime," we'll delve into the fascinating and tragic story of how this criminal organization took root on the island, how it grew over the decades, and most importantly, how Sicily and Italy have fought and continue to fight against the mafia phenomenon.

We'll visit places that bear witness to both the mafia's presence and the resistance against it, such as the Capaci memorial and the Felicia and Peppino Impastato Memory House. We'll also discover how the courage and determination of individual people and social movements, like Addio Pizzo, have challenged the mafia's power, contributing to creating positive change in Sicilian society.

On this journey, we'll delve deep into the heart of Sicily to better understand the complex reality of an island that, despite its challenges, has managed to maintain its beauty, its culture, and its pride. Through stories of heroism, sacrifice, and resilience, we hope to provide a more complete and truthful image of Sicily, an island that, in addition to its undeniable scenic and cultural beauty, is also a symbol of struggle and hope in the battle against organized crime. Join us on this exciting and engaging journey to discover the mafia in Sicily and the people who have fought for a better future.

mafia in sicily

A Bit of History

The mafia, or Cosa Nostra, is a criminal organization that originated in Sicily, Italy, and has had a significant impact on Italian society for decades. The mafia is distinguished by its criminal nature, which is based on violence, intimidation, and extortion.

Origins and Growth of the Mafia in Sicily

The mafia has its roots in the 18th century in Sicily, during the period of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. The mafia formed as a sort of protection association for Sicilian farmers, who were often victims of violence and abuse by landowners and corrupt public officials.

Over time, the mafia evolved into a criminal organization that controlled economic activities in Sicily, including drug trafficking, extortion, gambling, and smuggling. The mafia also had strong ties to politics and finance and exerted control over many institutions and economic activities on the island.

Key Mafia Leaders

Over the years, many mafia bosses have led Cosa Nostra. Among them, the most well-known is undoubtedly Salvatore Riina, also known as "Totò" Riina, who was the head of the mafia from 1978 until his capture in 1993. Riina was responsible for numerous violent acts, including the killing of several law enforcement members and magistrates.

Another significant mafia boss was Bernardo Provenzano, who led Cosa Nostra after Riina's capture in 1993. Provenzano was captured in 2006, having been on the run for over 40 years.

Most Important Events in the History of the Mafia in Sicily:

  • 1860: Unification of Italy, end of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, and the rise of local barons contributing to the formation of the Sicilian mafia.

  • 1949: Pentecost Day, assassination of Peppino Impastato, a journalist and anti-mafia activist, a symbol of the fight against the mafia.

  • 1963: Tommaso Buscetta joins the mafia, becomes an informant, and collaborates with the judiciary to dismantle the criminal organization.

  • 1980: Assassination of Pio La Torre, political and union leader, killed for his commitment to the fight against the mafia.

  • 1992: Two bombings, in Capaci (May 19th, Judge Giovanni Falcone) and via D'Amelio (July 19th, Judge Paolo Borsellino), shake Italy and lead to the adoption of new anti-mafia laws.

  • 1993: Arrest of Salvatore Riina, the head of Cosa Nostra, marking a significant step towards the decline of mafia power.

  • 1996: Creation of the Anti-Mafia Investigative Directorate (DIA) to strengthen the authorities' ability to combat the mafia.

  • 2006: Arrest of Bernardo Provenzano, Salvatore Riina's successor and head of Cosa Nostra.

  • 2018: Arrest of Settimino Mineo, the alleged boss of the Palermo mafia, a sign that the fight against the criminal organization continues.

This list represents a more detailed selection of key events in the history of the mafia in Sicily, but there are many other significant dates and events that could be included.

Il pizzo (The protect money)

pizzo protect money

"Protection money" is a form of extortion used by the mafia in Italy, especially in Sicily. It involves demanding payment from entrepreneurs, traders, and other individuals in exchange for protection against organized crime.

In practice, entrepreneurs who pay the protection money hope to avoid harm to their businesses or themselves, such as the arson of their shop or physical assault. However, paying this fee can lead to a situation of dependence and submission to the criminal organization and can represent a significant cost for the business.

Protection money is used in many Italian cities, including Palermo, Naples, Rome, and Milan. In some parts of Sicily, it is a widespread practice, and many businesses are forced to pay large sums to ensure protection.

To counteract protection money and the mafia in general, many associations have been created in recent years. One of these is...

Goodbye Protection Money (Addio Pizzo):

Goodbye Protection Money (Addio Pizzo) is an anti-mafia association and movement that originated in Palermo, Sicily, in 2004. The term "protection money" refers to the extortion racket, a common practice among mafia organizations where local businesses are required to pay a "fee" for protection and security. The primary goal of Goodbye Protection Money is to combat the protection money racket and support businesses that refuse to pay it.

The association was founded by a group of young entrepreneurs and citizens who, tired of the widespread mafia extortion, decided to join forces to counteract the phenomenon. Goodbye Protection Money promotes a culture of critical consumption, encouraging consumers to support businesses that oppose paying protection money.

Goodbye Protection Money has created a network of businesses, called "Pizzo-free," that publicly commit not to pay mafia extortion. These businesses are listed on a website and in a guide, allowing consumers to consciously choose where to spend their money based on ethical principles. Goodbye Protection Money also organizes events, seminars, and awareness initiatives to inform the population about the importance of fighting the mafia by refusing protection money.

Over the years, Goodbye Protection Money has gained widespread local and international support. The movement has shown that collective action and community support can lead to significant changes in the fight against the mafia and the promotion of a fairer and more responsible society.

The Palermo Massacres

The Palermo Massacres:

The Palermo massacres refer to a series of terrorist attacks carried out by the mafia in Sicily, especially in Palermo, between the late 1970s and the early 1990s. These attacks aimed to eliminate representatives of institutions and law enforcement agencies attempting to counteract the mafia.

Among the most notable massacres are the Via D'Amelio attack, which killed Judge Paolo Borsellino along with the five members of his security detail, and the Capaci attack, where Judge Giovanni Falcone, three of his security agents, and his driver were murdered.

These massacres profoundly impacted Italian society and underscored the country's urgent need to combat the mafia. Battling the mafia became a top priority for Italian institutions, leading to the introduction of new laws and reforms to tackle the criminal organization.

In the years following the Palermo massacres, many individuals, often risking their lives, stood up against the mafia. Judges, police officers, prosecutors, and journalists have dedicated their lives to this fight. Numerous civil society associations also committed to this battle against the criminal entity.

Today, while the situation in Sicily and Italy has evolved and the mafia has significantly weakened, the fight against this criminal organization remains ongoing. The Palermo massacres will forever be etched in collective memory as a symbol of the courage and determination of those who opposed the mafia and as a stark reminder of the devastation wrought by violence and injustice.

The Fight Against the Mafia in Sicily:

Over the years, countless individuals have waged war against the mafia in Sicily, often putting their lives in peril. Among them, Judge Giovanni Falcone and his colleague Paolo Borsellino have become iconic figures in the fight against organized crime. Their assassinations in separate attacks in 1992, while tragic, have inspired countless others to take up the mantle against the mafia.

Other key figures in this fight have been the magistrates and police officers whose investigations led to the apprehension of numerous mafia bosses. Civil society organizations, such as anti-mafia associations and volunteer groups, have also played a pivotal role in this battle.

The landscape has transformed, and while the fight against the mafia persists, Cosa Nostra's influence has waned. Many who once lived under the mafia's shadow chose to rebel, collaborating with the justice system to dismantle this nefarious organization.

Recent years have also seen the introduction of several legislative reforms designed to combat the mafia across Sicily and Italy at large. For instance, a law has been established for the confiscation of illicitly-acquired assets, enabling authorities to seize properties owned by mafia members.

Furthermore, specialized police units like the Anti-Mafia Investigative Directorate (DIA) and the Joint Task Force for Preventing Organized Crime (GIPCO) have been established.

Today, Sicilian and Italian society are increasingly aware of the damage wrought by the mafia. A growing number of individuals are joining the fight against this criminal organization. However, in some parts of Sicily, the mafia still has a foothold, maintaining its grip over certain economic sectors and public institutions.

To effectively combat the mafia, it's imperative for authorities and civil society to work collaboratively, ensuring justice and legality prevail. It's also crucial to educate the youth about the mafia's adverse effects and the benefits of an honest, lawful life, steering them away from the clutches of organized crime.

No mafia


Fortunately, over the past few decades, significant strides have been made in the fight against the mafia in Sicily and throughout Italy. Italian society is becoming increasingly aware of the havoc wrought by the mafia, with more and more individuals joining the fight against the criminal organization.

Thanks to the collaboration between authorities, the judiciary, the police, and civil society, many individuals have been arrested and convicted of mafia-related crimes, leading to the significant weakening of the criminal organization's power. Additionally, legislative reforms introduced in recent years have empowered authorities to seize assets owned by mafia members, effectively crippling their financial foundations.

There remain many challenges in the fight against the mafia, but the advancements of recent years attest to a changing landscape. Italian society is signaling its desire to live in a fairer, law-abiding country, aiming to eradicate the culture of corruption and violence.

In conclusion, while the mafia has profoundly impacted Italian society for decades, today's fight against the criminal organization is yielding substantial results. It's vital to continue working collaboratively to ensure justice and legality, striving to forge a freer, more democratic society for all.

sicily free of mafia

In conclusion, Sicily is an island of extraordinary beauty, steeped in a rich history, unique culture, and traditions. Despite its turbulent past and the shadow of the mafia, it's essential to remember that today's Sicily is a land of hope, resilience, and progress, thanks to the tireless efforts of many brave individuals who have fought and continue to fight against organized crime.

We therefore invite you to come and discover and enjoy Sicily without fear, immersing yourself in its breathtaking landscapes, artistic marvels, and culinary delights. The warm and welcoming hospitality of the Sicilian people will make you feel at home, providing an authentic and unforgettable experience. Explore the island in a relaxed and responsible manner, supporting local businesses that strive for a brighter future, free from the yoke of the mafia.

Sicily awaits you with open arms, ready to show you its true face, one of love, pride, and determination. Don't miss the opportunity to visit this enchanting land, understanding its history, challenges, and victories, to fully appreciate its worth and strength. Safe travels, and see you soon in Sicily!


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