Planning a trip to Sicily and wondering how to spot a Mafioso?
Augusto Cavadi, a Sicilian high school teacher and Mafia scholar, tells tourists everything they’ve wanted to know about the Mafia in a 55-page handbook.
“You know, I couldn’t be bothered to always answer the same questions,” said Cavadi, who holds seminars for tourists wanting to know more about Sicily’s social and historic background.
But this is not only a book for tourists. As a high school teacher, Cavadi was required to plan school exchanges. One thing he found irritating were parents from the north of Italy who would stop their children from traveling to Sicily because they were afraid of what they thought as the “Wild West.”
That was enough for a small, cheap and practical tourist guide about the Mafia to be written, distributed and translated into Japanese, French, German, English and Spanish.
Copying the style of a washing machine instruction manual, “Mafia for Tourists” includes answers to the 10 most frequently asked questions, such as: Does the Mafia kill children? Priests? Women? Why have 5 million Sicilians been unable to successfully jail 5,000 Mafiosi? What is the relationship between Mafia and politics? Has the Mafia always existed?
“Yes the Mafia does kill priests if they speak out against it,” Cavadi said in an interview with ABC News and this is precisely his point.
“I don’t want to diminish the fierceness of [the] Mafia, but I would like to make it absolutely clear that the Mafia doesn’t care about tourists. It is not in its interests to attract the police attention and this is why it keeps petty crime under control. Areas where organized crime organizations are operating are as safe as Paris and Rome. Mafia kills those who speak against it: journalists, judges, doctors, politicians,” Cavadi said.
In 150 years, only a couple of unlucky tourists have been wounded by Mafiosi. They were driving behind the car of Giovanni Falcone, a judge killed in a Mafia ambush in 1992.
For the scholar, the tiny book has a big task: restoring the battered image of his homeland.
Many tourist guides are ashamed of even answering questions about Mafia but Cavadi argues, “we shouldn’t be ashamed of our land. Sicily is not only a Mafia region, but it also belongs to all those people that have given their life to fight the organized crime. And this is something we can be proud of.”
In Italy, the book hasn’t been advertised and few have been talking about it. Anything related to the Mafia is a very sensitive issue and the idea of a tourist guide about it is not always well accepted. For some the guide is a way to profit from a tragedy.
Roberto Saviano, author of “Gomorra,” a best-selling book about Camorra — the organized crime syndicate operating in Naples — told ABC News, “The idea could be suggestive, but a tourist guide sounds like a way to capitalize on the Mafia rather than to send a provocative message.”
Others like Nando Dalla Chiesa, a former member of parliament and son of a police head officer killed by the Mafia, worry that the guide could contribute to stereotypes, turning the Mafia into a folkloristic wonder.
But some also believe that speaking about organized crime is a way of fighting it, unveiling its secrecy, sharing among an increasing number of people the responsibility of knowing what is going on, crashing the code of silence that protects it.
For Enzo Bianco, a former interior minister and ex-mayor of Catania, a major city in Sicily, “one of the great victories in the war against the Mafia is when the first repentant started to write about it. Information and communication about the Mafia are extraordinary tools to break the holy and fearsome atmosphere that surrounds the organization.”
Bianco adds that this is not the first initiative of this kind. Andrea Camilleri, a very popular Italian author, has recently published a dictionary about Mafia, analyzing the words used by Bernardo Provenzano, the boss of bosses, in his Pizzini (coded messages exchanged between Mafia affiliates).
At any rate, if your final goal is to spot a true Mafioso, the Mafia handbook is not a 100 percent guarantee. Cavadi has known dozens of them, but only realized they were Mafiosi once they were arrested.