Italy’s black economy represents almost a fifth of the country’s entire economic output. For most people those figures conjure up two words; The Mafia.
But while Sicily’s Cosa Nostra continue to be highly influential, the country’s biggest organized crime group is actually based elsewhere; Calabria. Known as the Ndraghetta they have surpassed the Mafia as one the most powerful criminal groups in the world.
|DATES||Saturday 3 October 2020 – Sunday 11 October 2020|
|DESTINATION||Calabria and Naples|
The tour is led by the Italian based reporter, author and amateur football player, Tobias Jones.
Single supplement: £500.00
Tobias Jones, the award winning author and Italian resident takes us on a journey through the region speaking with politicians, businesses, ordinary Italians as well as former criminals and prosecutors. We will also visit Naples, Italy’s third largest city, and home to another criminal clan, the Camorra
Our aim is to expose the truth as well as the many myths surrounding the groups that continue to hold such a large grip on Italian society.
Contact us for further details.
Italy’s black economy represents almost a fifth of the country’s entire economic output. For most people those figures conjure up two words: The Mafia.
But while Sicily’s Cosa Nostra continue to be highly influential, the country’s biggest organised crime group is actually based elsewhere – Calabria. Known as the ‘Ndrangheta, it has surpassed Cosa Nostra the most powerful criminal group in the world.
Tobias Jones, the award-winning author and Italian resident takes us on a journey through the region speaking with politicians, businesses, investigative journalists, ordinary Italians as well as former criminals, priests and prosecutors. We will also visit Naples, Italy’s third largest city, home to another criminal clan, the Camorra.
Our aim is to expose the truth as well as the many myths surrounding the groups that continue to hold such a large grip on Italian society. Since Naples and Calabria are home to some of Italy’s very best cuisine, we shall also be treating you to some of the finest food, and wine, on the planet.
Saturday, 3rd Oct: Naples
Our journey starts in Naples, one of Italy’s most vibrant, but troubled, cities. This is where Roberto Saviano’s Gomorrah and Elena Ferrante’s novels are set. Naples has its own powerful Mafia, called the Camorra. As well as drug-dealing, they are also present in public contract rackets, especially rubbish collection and construction.
Dinner and an introduction to the week ahead with our expert, Tobias Jones.
Sunday, 4th Oct: Naples: Living, and dying, outside the law
We travel just north of Naples to Castel Volturno. This vast ghetto is a semi-legal immigrant metropolis where drug-dealing and prostitution are rife. Seven immigrants were murdered here by the Camorra in 2008. We talk to some of the community leaders about the challenges of leaving in the shadow of organised crime, where the temptation of easy money – from drug-dealing, pimping and prostitution – often bring the poorest residents into contact with organised crime. Back in Naples itself, we talk to a representative of Libera, a national organisation attempting to free Italy from the grip of the Mafia. We will also meet a former capo-ultrà (the boss of one of Naples’ hooligan crews): the ultras are hardcore football fans and are often thought be overlap with organised crime, providing the foot-soldiers and street muscle, and are frequently from the far-right. If the sporting calendar allows, we will also go to a Serie A football match to see the ultras in action.
Monday, 5th Oct: Naples: Dirty Streets, Dirty Money
Refuse contracts are one of the biggest earners for the Neapolitan Mafia, the Camorra. We travel to some of the notorious sites associated with the business – incinerators, landfill sites, local dumps – to understand how the finances of these strange contracts work. We will be accompanied by an investigative journalist who has lifted the lid on the ways in which rubbish collections, and the lack of them, are used to manipulate the public mood and the public contracts. We talk with anti-mafia politicians in the city council to understand the challenges they face in trying find, and to award contracts to, companies which are entirely free of mafia control; and to a political analyst to hear about different governments’ strategies with regard to organised crime – from the complicit to the confrontational.
Tuesday, 6th Oct: Naples: Understanding the City and its suburbs
We walk around two of Naples’ most notorious suburbs: La Sanità and Scampia. These rough, rugged and noisy streets of the city are renowned as the bases of organised crime. A local journalist, who has his own protective escort because of his investigations, guides us through the back alleys to explain some of the sites and scenes. We will talk to community organisations about how they are attempting to rebrand these suburbs. We visit a local police station and interrogate law enforcement on the often unsuccessful fight against organised crime.
Wednesday, 7th Oct: Calabria: Into Calabria…
We travel south towards the big toe of the Italian boot. We stop in Cosenza, a city nicknamed “the Athens of Calabria” because of its intellectual vigour. It’s a place which has often been at the forefront of anti-mafia movements. Here we talk to a writer who investigated the dumping of toxic waste in the sea and with a mafioso who has come out the other side and, after years of prison, become a journalist. Both will explain the mechanisms of organised crime and take us into the details and specifics.
Thursday, 8th Oct: Calabria:: Anti-mafia campaigners
We travel south to Gioiosa Ionica and Riace to talk to two of the region’s most courageous anti-mafia campaigners: one set up a network of anti-mafia organisations, and has seen his associates frequently issued with death-threats… and the other was for many years a mayor of a small town which campaigned against the ‘ndrangheta and became globally famous in the process. He will explain how mass immigration became one of the biggest earners for the ‘ndrangheta.
Friday, 9th Oct: Reggio-Calabria: Law-Enforcement in Italy’s most Lawless City
We talk to an investigator who has been bringing mafiosi from the ‘ndrangheta to trial for almost three decades. He is the most knowledgeable man on the inner workings of the criminal network, on its organisational set-up, its rivalries, ambitions and reach. We walk around the city to visit some of the sites of notorious murders in recent years, and meet an author of more than six books on the ‘ndrangheta.
Saturday, 10th Oct: Calabria
For our last day, we go up into the mountains, to a notorious pilgrimage site called the Sanctuary of Santa Maria di Polsi. Very close to the ‘ndrangheta strongholds of San Luca, Locri and Platì, this remote monastery is almost 1000 metres above sea level, next to the highest mountain of the Aspromonte range. It is here that all the cells of the ‘ndrangheta gather annually to coordinate strategy and settle debts. Spectacular, historical and eerie, this mountain retreat is the ideal place to reflect upon organised crime’s conflation with Catholicism, and its place in modern Italy. We will be accompanied on our excursion by an anti-mafia priest who explains how religious imagery and rituals have been incorporated into the mafia, giving it a patina of ancient respectability.
We review the week over dinner.
Sunday, 11th Oct: Calabria
Tour Ends after breakfast
Book Your Tour
Saturday 3 October 2020 – Sunday 11 October 2020
Cost £4500 Single supplement £500
The tour will start in Naples and end in Calabria
All of your accommodation and meals with water are included, as well as local transport (except during your free time). Flights are not included in the price and need to be arranged by customers themselves or with an agent.
Following the news
Like all our tours the itinerary is focused on current affairs. Events on the ground may change and the final schedule may be adjusted accordingly.
As on all our expert-led tours the groups are deliberately small and will not exceed 14 people. Frequently we travel with 10-12 people. Limited spaces are available.
Italy is a member of the European Union (EU) and part of the Schengen Convention. US, Australian and New Zealand travellers do not need a visa if they are staying less than 90 days but passports must have a six month validity from the planned return date.
Daytime temperatures in Naples and Calabria will range from high teens, to mid 20s Centigrade (C) with overnight temperatures dropping by around 5-10 C.
There is no particular dress code for Italy. Men: Will need a jacket and tie for some of the meetings. Women: You will need some smarter attire for one or two meetings.
FCO Website – Travel Advice
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office publishes regularly updated travel information on its website www.fco.gov.uk/knowbeforeyougo which you are recommended to consult before booking and in good time before departure. Where it considers it appropriate to do so, the FCO may advise against all travel or all but essential travel to particular countries or parts of particular countries. Similarly, the FCO may withdraw any such previously given advice. Where the FCO issues such advice, we may as a result cancel your tour or make changes so as to avoid the area concerned (see clause 10). Alternatively, we may ask you to sign a form confirming you wish to proceed with the tour notwithstanding the FCO advice. It is in the nature of the itineraries we offer that the FCO may have issued such advice in relation to the country or parts of the country we are intending to visit prior to confirmation of your booking. In this case, you will be asked to sign the above form before we confirm your booking.
Advice on health requirements may be obtained from your GP, or alternatively from the Department of Health leaflet Advice on Health for Travelers, or the Department of Health in the UK. For further information on vaccination requirements, health outbreaks and general disease protection and prevention you should visit http://www.fitfortravel.scot.nhs.uk/destinations.aspx
It is also useful to travel with medications for traveller’s tummy – like imodium, probiotics and rehydration sachets.
We suggest you visit your own doctor or local travel clinic who will have the most up-to-date travel advice, and be able to recommend any vaccinations prior to travel based on your medical history.
Currency is Italy is the Euro.
Electricity supply is 230 volts, 2 round pin European plugs.
Wifi is available in all hotels, as well as many coffee shops and restaurants.
International Passenger Protection Insurance (IPP)
All our travel arrangements are covered by the UK’s package tour regulations and are financially guaranteed. We are a land-only tour operator and flights are not included.
Tobias Jones is the author of four works of non-fiction, including the bestselling The Dark Heart of Italy and Blood on the Altar and three crime novels set in Italy.
He has written and presented various documentaries for the BBC and for RAI, the Italian state broadcaster, and co-founded the Windsor Hill Wood community – the subject of his seventh book, A Place of Refuge.
A former columnist for the Observer and Internazionale, he writes regularly for the British, American and Italian press. He plays football for the England writers football team, and has taught writing and journalism at a variety of universities, prisons and charities.
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The ‘Ndrangheta and Camorra
Whilst most people assume the Italian Mafia is one big organisation, it is actually divisible into three main criminal groups, separate albeit sometimes overlapping: Cosa Nostra in Sicily, the ‘ndrangheta in Calabria, and the Camorra in and around Naples. The former is the most well-known, partly because of its renown in America and through famous gangster movies. However in recent years the power of Cosa Nostra has been on the wane, and all Mafia experts are united in the opinion that the ‘ndrangheta is the most lethal, rich and insidious criminal organisation in Italy and Europe.
It was noticed as far back as the 18th century, when an inspector for the Bourbon monarchy toured Calabria and commented on the criminal activities of Calabrian peasants. By the early 20th century, the strongmen of the ‘ndrangheta were being employed as gangmasters by landowners, finding labourers for the fields and ensuring that strikes and increased wage-demands were eradicated. In those decades of mass emigration from Italy, the ‘ndrangheta exported its criminal reach abroad, particularly into Canada, America and Australia. The criminals made money through protection rackets, prostitution and bootleg alcohol.
As Italy boomed in the post-war years, the ‘ndrangheta became immensely wealthy through construction contracts. Suddenly cash-rich, and far less reluctant than other criminal organisations to become involved in dealing narcotics, the ‘ndrangheta began importing cocaine from South America. Through ruthlessness and allegiances, the organisation became the main distributor of cocaine in Europe. Now even wealthier, the criminals began laundering their money through legitimate businesses, buying agricultural land, real estate, retail outlets, sports clubs and, often, protecting themselves through political influence. Few ambitious politicians in Calabria could hope to enjoy a career without the financial and electoral support of the region’s mighty ‘ndrangheta. Those who tried have often been murdered.
The political approach to organised crime veers between complicity and confrontation. For much of the 20th century, Italian politicians denied there was even such a thing as the Mafia. When the evidence became overwhelming, they urged realism: the Minister for Infrastructure in Silvio Berlusconi’s 2nd administration publicly said that organised crime was a reality which one simply had to “live alongside and deal with as you see fit”. Since Berlusconi once won 100% of the directly-elected parliamentary seats in Sicily, there was ample suspicion that his ministers knew which side their electoral bread was buttered. Giulio Andreotti, PM of Italy on seven separate occasions, was another politician notoriously close to organised crime. Other politicians, however, have been more confrontational: Mussolini famously eradicated Cosa Nostra almost entirely through his “Iron Prefect”, Cesare Mori, and many democratically-elected politicians (most notably the current mayor of Naples, a former magistrate) are courageously confronting all aspects of criminality.
That political influence means that organised crime is, through the use of fronts which appear as legitimate businesses, often awarded public contracts. Whilst in the 20th century those contracts were largely for construction, now the ‘ndrangheta is heavily involved in the multi-billion euro industries of refuse collection and the housing of immigrants and refugees. Since the criminals care little about human life or the environment, toxic waste has often been simply dumped at sea and refugees accommodated in miserable ghettos with tiny rations. Any journalist, magistrate or politician who draws attention to such injustices is at risk.
Bibliography and Filmography:
Books by Tobias Jones:
The Dark Heart of Italy (Faber & Faber)
Ultra (Head of Zeus)
Blood on the Altar (Faber & Faber)
A Place of Refuge (Quercus)
Utopian Dreams (Faber & Faber)
Torregreca, Ann Cornelisan
Mafia Brotherhoods, Letizia Paoli
Mafia Republic, John Dickie
Into the Heart of the Mafia, David Lane
Excellent Cadavers, Alexander Stille
Enough of Dreams, Francesco Perri
Zero, Zero, Zero, Roberto Saviano
The Invisible Camorra, Felia Allum
Blood Ties, Claudio Antonelli and Gianluigi Nuzzi
Black Souls, Gioacchino Criacco
Diego (dir. Capadia)
Gomorrah! (dir. Garrone) – there is both a film and a TV series with this title.
The Hands over the City (dir. Rosi)
Anime Nere (dir. Munzi)
Mediterranea (dir. Carpignano)