I regularly credit La Repubblica. Where’s the love?
by Carl Russo
LA REPUBBLICA, one of Italy's leading national newspapers, stole my photograph for an article about cemetery tourism in that country. Take a look at my image below of Mafia godfather Michele “the Pope” Greco’s gravesite then see how it appears in La Repubblica. Some two-bit photo editor cropped out my blog’s logo! This copyrighted image also appears in my book, The Sicilian Mafia: A True Crime Travel Guide.
It started with a study that found tourists are visiting the graveyards of Italy more than those of any other European country, rating the regions of Sicily, Tuscany, and Emilia-Romagna as tops in boneyards.
La Repubblica took it further, claiming that travelers are tracking down tombstones of people associated with the history of the Mafia. The only evidence for such a claim would have to be the existence of my book and/or blog, yet neither warrants a mention in the article.
Here is my translation of the text that accompanies the newspaper’s slideshow of Mafia-related graves:
They visit not only the Cathedral, the Norman Palace and the Vucciria [market], but also the cemeteries of Rotoli and Sant'Orsola, to see the most famous Palermitans. According to a study by JFC Tourism and Management, Sicily is in second place after Tuscany among the regions for cemeteries with the most architectural and historical appeal.
Last year, twenty cemeteries attracted 45,000 tourists. In short, a new touristic category is born to receive visitors at the Florio family’s mausoleum in Santa Maria di Gesù, the most monumental cemetery in the city; and the tomb of Giovanni Falcone in Sant’Orsola, where one can also see the Mafia’s ‘Pope,’ Michele Greco. At the Cappucine cemetery, one finds the sepulcher of Pio La Torre, the regional secretary of the PCI [Communist Party], killed by the Mafia in ‘82.
La Repubblica has a long and respected history of Mafia reportage. In my book, I cited it in a chapter and singled out its formidable journalists in the bibliography. This blog regularly sources the paper in articles. But until I hear back from its editors about the unauthorized use of my photograph, I’ll consider La Repubblica’s images ripe for plucking without credit.
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The May 27 arrest of twelve members of the Camorra yielded an aesthetic surprise that hearkens back to the early days of the Naples Mafia. Some of the captured clan members were found to have the word “Bodo” tattooed onto their flesh—arm, back or hip. Bodo is known to Italian schoolchildren as the cutesy cartoon mascot from medieval times who teaches them history. But it’s also the nickname of Marco De Micco, the young leader of the Ponticello Camorra currently serving a two-year, eight-month prison stint for attempted extortion.
Tattoos are an old tradition of the Camorra, dating back to the nineteenth century. The image to the right, which comes courtesy of the Friz Tattoo parlor of Naples, shows the severe markings etched into the skin of Carmine, a camorrista. They can be read as his autobiography.
The initials on Carmine’s chest signify his plans to avenge the honor of his lover Anna Cardillo (“A.C”), who was molested by Antonio Rai (“A.R”), Angelo Esposito (“A.E”) and one Captain Totonno (“T. C”). The dagger on his leg pointing to a heart represents the weapon he’d use and its ultimate destination. The block-lettered “VUP” stands for Vi ucciderò poi or, “I’ll kill you,” and the banner bearing the letters “P.D.F.” marks him as a former convict of the Prison of France, where he served time for stealing. The sun peeking over the banner was a symbol of the Camorra’s power, which was dimmed but not extinguished by the May 27 arrests.
Implicated in the investigations was a notorious character who is a walking gallery of needle art as well as a terror of Italy’s soccer bleachers. Gennaro “Genny the Scumbag” Di Tommaso, chief hooligan of Naples’ ultra-violent Ultras fan club, was fingered as a drug supplier by a detained Camorra member. The ex-mafioso told police that stashes of Amnesia—cannabis laced with speed or heroin—were left for the clan in a car parked in the Ponticello cemetery. Such a bizarre plot could be lifted straight from Gomorrah, the Italian fictional miniseries based on Roberto Saviano’s exposé of the selfsame Mafia clan.
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GRAVEYARD SMASH. If you dig graves you’ll absolutely love the blogs written by two dedicated taphophiles. Author and fellow Wicked World contributor Loren Rhoads wanders the scenic burial grounds of New England and beyond in Cemetery Travel, and Joshua “Mr. Morbid” Perry writes about his “gravecations” and curates the Gangsters in Granite series at The Gravecast Blog. And don’t miss my piece on Sicily’s coffin crisis, emblematic of the island’s graver problems.