XIII: Mafialand

We are set to leave Sicily. It has been an excellent visit to this ancient & venerable island; almost three months of fine foods, good weather & interesting meetings with the colourful locals. Talking of colour, our night in Palermo the other day coincided with a Friday night & we were soon mingling with the local youth & bantering in Italian! It was a far cry from my weak efforts way back in Lucca, when I first returned to Italy several months ago.

After our party in Palermo, the  next morning we began negotiating the crazy maze that is the city’s road system & eventually set off on a three day mini-tour of the rest of Sicily, turning into a retired middle-aged couple in the process!  Its surreal at this time of year, rolling into ghost towns that are apparently buzzin’ in summer but wick with tumbleweed in the winter. However, the weathers been pretty nice, averaging about 17 degrees, & it’s been relaxing just lazing about snoozing & drinking wine – a sort of holiday from our holiday. It’s a totally different way to travel but definitely more relaxed and free…. just seeing a place in the distance that looks beautiful and heading in that direction! The soul is full of sweet sensations when its host travels at such a pace as this. The modern world is so fast, one should always take time to get away from it all & let life’s experiences catch up, in the form of flashbacks & dreams just popping into your head; I have had a strange movie of my life these few years past slowly unfolding in my mind from time to time upon my lonely walks. I have mused upon them all, leaving no stone unturned in my analysis of them, & feel better for it… one could say I feel cleans’d.

Back on the road, our first port of call was a trip to the town of Corleone. The place reeks of Mafia & as we drove into the place the gaggle of squat, narrow-eyed men clustered on benches around a game of boule were very scary indeed. You could cut the atmosphere of Corleone with a knife & after only a few minutes me & Glenda thought it better to go on to pastures new. The best parts of the mini-tour, which saw us sweep from one side of the island to the other, were the Greek ruins in the valley of temples at Agrigento, which dominate the high points below the modern city – buildings over 2,500 years old. There was also the gorgeous baroque sensuality of the small city of Noto, rebuilt after an earthquake in a very sumptuous style. You can still see the great gouges of earth seismically ripped apart in the surrounding area. Last night was spent in Marzemi, a resort which had quality arcade machines for 50 cents (30p) – & after my year-long month poetic sabbatical it felt great to have some good ol’ fashioned Blackpool style fun! But now, two months & three weeks since arriving in Sicily, I have only got two hours left. Me & G are currently at the port of Pozzalo, a pleasant enough place, where the hovercraft for Malta leaves in two hours. Glenda’s crazy mate is waiting for us over there, so who knows whats gonna happen…

31 / 01 / 06


Note : Not only was Corleone the inspiration for the surname of the mobsters in the Godfather trilogy, but it was also the heart of a very real Mafia story that had only just been played a few months before our arrival.  Bernardo Provenzano, a very violent mafia boss, had been wanted by the Italian authorities for over thirty years. He had always kept one step ahead of the law & had grown to become the most powerful boss in Italy, ruling his empire with a series of pizzini – coded messages sent out from his secret hideaway scrawled on little pieces of paper. For years nothing concrete was ever found that would give away his location, that is until a tapped telephone conversation hinted that Provenzano was in the Corleone area, where his closest family lived. Eventually the whole town was covered in hidden cameras & a daily bag of food sent out from the family home was eventually followed, via several changes of hands, to a farm several miles from the town. Lo & behold the now elderly Capo di tutti I capi of the Cosa Nostra was there! One swift bust later he was behind bars, for what will probably be the rest of his life. His arrest is also bound to start a power struggle within the mafia itself, dredging up long-hidden minor bosses from their hideaways as they attempt to fill Provenzano’s boots – which can only bring them to the attention of the increasingly anti-mafia authorities. Is this the end of the Mafia as we know it?

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