It’s been called the “shame of Italy” and for good reason. The A3 autostrada, a 443km highway that is to connect Salerno to Reggio Calabria, has been under construction since 1966.
Faulty construction and mafia meddling by both the Camorra and ‘Ndragheta factions have caused numerous delays during the nearly 50 years since the project began, reports The Independent. It has become the “symbol of how public works are in Italy,” according to Stefano Zerbi, spokesman for Codacons, Italy’s national consumer organization.
When mobsters aren’t creaming off millions from the road building thanks to dodgy contract work, it seems they’re ensuring that the route doesn’t impinge on their other activities. About halfway, the route curves back on itself awkwardly. This detour is said to have been done at the request of a local Mob boss who didn’t want the motorway coming too close to his villa.
This week, Prime Minister Renzi declared that construction of the A3 will be stepped up in the hopes that the project will be finalized by the end of 2015. However, no completion date has been set.
The brave work of the anti-mafia organization AddioPizzo.org was recently brought to my attention. “Addio Pizzo” means “Goodbye, Pizzo,” the latter word meaning the protection money that hundreds of businesses throughout Sicily have had to pay to the powerful, omnipresent mafia. AddioPizzo was formed in 2004 after a group of young Sicilian entrepreneurs, afraid that they too would have to pay a racket if they wanted to open up a pub, began plastering Palermo with stickers that said:
Un Intero Popolo Che Paga Il Pizzo È Un Popolo Senza Dignità
An Entire People Who Pay the Pizzo Is a People Without Dignity
As more Sicilians spoke up to agree with this message, the anti-pizzo movement was born. Slowly but surely, businesses stepped forward bearing the “addiopizzo” label, which meant that because they refused to pay the pizzo, then their customers did not have to worry about funding the Mafia through their purchases. Today there is an ever-growing list of AddioPizzo businesses in Palermo, from sporting goods stores to pharmacies and from restaurants to industrial service providers. You can download the 2009 AddioPizzo Guide and Map to Pizzo-Free Businesses (PDF) here (the most recent guide available as of this writing). You can also print out this list, which is less handy because it is without a map but probably more updated.
AddioPizzo also now has an offshoot called AddioPizzo Travel, which takes tourists around Sicily to not only pizzo-free establishments but former homes and hideouts of mob bosses which have been reclaimed by the state and turned over to anti-mafia organizations such as Libera Terra. AddioPizzo Travel goes beyond the Sicilian capital of Palermo to explore many of the other beautiful – but mafia-scarred – cities of Monreale, Capaci, Cinisi, and Cefalù.
Libera Terra is in itself interesting anti-mob organization. It operates as a cooperative that has begun cultivating lands seized from the mafia and producing goods with the “from lands freed from the mafia” label. Libera Terra also runs a B&B in the former home of mob capo Bernardo Brusca (Portella della Ginestra) as well as the co-op farmstay inn (Pio La Torre) in Corleone, renowned Cosa Nostra territory.
This is responsible travel at its core. Let’s hope that the AddioPizzo organization, label, and tours will spread north to other mafia-infected regions like Calabria and Campania.