Congratulations to the city of Palermo, which has been awarded the distinction of Italian Capital of Culture for 2018.
The Italian Culture Ministry (Ministero di Beni Culturali) awards the prize each year in an effort to promote tourism. Along with the distinction, the winning city receives 1 million euro which is to be used to promote cultural activities and artistic heritage.
“We saw that this virtuous competition creates a system of communal participation,” said Culture Minister Dario Franceschini, “Being on the shortlist is a bit like receiving an Oscar nomination: it allows them to do a lot of work, in terms of planning and promotions.”
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.
My friend Jessica over at Italy Logue found this (pretty) great deal from Perillo Tours this summer. Here’s the gist:
In order to take advantage of the (admittedly generous) free airfare offer, you have to fly from New York’s JFK into Rome, Bologna or Palermo. You have to fly on EuroFly airlines. The flight must be booked by June 1, 2008. And – here’s perhaps the most critical piece – the flight must be booked along with one of three of Perillo Tours’ specific trips in Italy.
So, this isn’t the greatest package deal that we’ve seen. But it’s nice for Perillo to throw a bone to its cash-strapped yet vacation-starved American clients. If you want to read more about the Perillo deal, check out Jessica’s post. Otherwise, you can visit the Perillo Tours website for more information.
At the end of this month, from April 24-27, Vespa enthusiasts from around the world will gather in Cefalù, Sicily, for Vespa World Days. This annual event, held in a different city each year, brings together thousands of the iconic Italian “motorini” from Piaggio in one place. Participants not only have the chance to meet up with other scooter fans but ride their scooters into Palermo for a parade on the 26th. Registration for the event has long since closed. But, if you plan to be in Sicily during the event, watch out (or listen!) for swarms of “wasps” zooming down the street.