As the nights draw in and the carols play ceaselessly over shop tannoys, our thoughts turn inevitably to summer holidays. And if you have yet to book yours, might I suggest a bijou little place in the Sicilian countryside, with no mod cons and some interesting dark red stains on the walls? As explained in this article on the BBC website, a co-operative in Sicily has been acquiring properties formerly owned by Mafia figures and turning them into ethical (i.e. Mafia-free) businesses – such farms and vineyards, guesthouses and restaurants. Indeed, more and more Sicilian businesses are signing up to a movement called “Addiopizzo” – goodbye to the pizzo, the extortion payment traditionally demanded by Mafia. One of the first to refuse to pay protection money was Libero Grassi, a clothing manufacturer from Palermo. In January 1991, he wrote an open letter to the local newspaper, the Giornale di Sicilia; published on the front page, his letter was addressed to “Dear Extortionist”. It caused an uproar but barely nine months later Grassi was dead – shot three times in the head as he walked from his home to his car.
Those who support Addiopizzo still face danger. The famous town of Corleone is home to several powerful Mafia families. Bernardo Provenzano, nicknamed “The Tractor” for his trait of mowing people down, was arrested and jailed in 2006. His former home in Corleone is now a “Bottega della Legalita” (Shop of Legality) selling pasta, sauces and wine produced by co-operatives now farming former Mafia land. But the shelves are sparsely stocked and customers are few. “That’s because it’s absolutely impossible to shop here unseen,” explains shop manager Liborio Grizzaffi. One of Provenzano’s relatives still owns the house opposite.