Calabria is one of Italy’s most beautiful regions with its azure shoreline and ancient history stretching back to Greek times. But it’s also home to Italy’s most powerful organised crime group, the ‘Ndrangheta.

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.

DATESSaturday 3 October 2020 – Sunday 11 October 2020
DESTINATIONCalabria
This tour is led by Tobias Jones, a journalist who has written extensively on the overlap between Italian politics, society and crime and Zora Hauser, who is widely recognised as one of the top experts in Europe on the ‘Ndrangheta.
DURATION7 nights
INCLUDED
All AccommodationMeals, Water & All Entrance Fees
Local TransportationExpert Guide
COSTCost: £4200.00
Single supplement: £500.00

Tobias Jones, the award winning author and Italian resident and Zora Hauser, who is widely recognised as one of the top experts in Europe on the ‘Ndrangheta take us on a journey through the region speaking with politicians, businesses, ordinary Italians as well as former criminals and prosecutors. Nicholas & Karen Wood, directors of Political Tours, accompany the group.

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.

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Calabria is one of Italy’s most beautiful regions with its azure shoreline and ancient history stretching back to Greek times. But it’s also home to Italy’s most powerful organised crime group, the ‘Ndrangheta.

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.

This seven day tour weaves its way through one of the most picturesque regions of Italy.  The trip combines access to some of the region’s leading political and judicial figures – with two brilliant experts Zora Hauser, who is widely recognised as one of the top experts in Europe on the group, and Tobias Jones, a journalist who has written extensively on the overlap between Italian politics, society and crime.  Nicholas & Karen Wood accompany the group.

NOTE: We have changed the itinerary, previously it included Naples and it now focusses on Calabria.

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 Calabria is 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.

Day 1

Saturday, 3rd Oct: Cosenza to Tropea

Our journey weaves its way through one of the most picturesque regions in Italy. We start 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.  We trace the growth of the ‘Ndrangheta from its rural origins, relationship with land owners and evolution to a modern network of criminal enterprises that stretch as far as Canada and Australia. We spend the afternoon here before driving down the coast – stopping en route for dinner.

 Overnight Tropea

Day 2

Sunday, 4th Oct: Tropea

Over the next few days we get an introduction to the far-reaching grip of organised crime groups on the economy from local restaurants and shops to ports and construction. Their reach goes beyond these areas – traditionally the targets of organised crime – into areas of finance, drugs, healthcare, and contracts with local authorities. It’s not just Italy that is now struggling to contain the group’s reach. Zora Hauser explains how the ‘Ndrangheta has been so adept at expanding internationally & escaping prosecution.

We travel back up the coast to Rosarno, a town not far from the port of Gioia Tauro. The town is home to several shanty towns with migrants from Africa. It’s an important source of labour – and its controlled by the ‘Ndrangheta. We meet with local members of the community plus a former mayor who took on the mafia and lost friends in the process.

Overnight Tropea

Day 3

Monday, 5th Oct: The Business: Gioia Tauro, Reggio Calabria

We travel a short distance up the coast to Gioia Tauro, Calabria’s principle port which was developed in no small part by financing from ‘Ndrangheta groups. The port is a barometer of the regional economy and reveals the deep roots of groups commercial influence. After a look around the port with get a briefing on the local economy & meet with senior investigators that deal with financial crime.

Back in Reggio Calabria we meet with the owner of one of the best restaurants in the city whose family stood up to the ‘Ndrangheta after years of being forced to pay the pizzo or extortion money (the reaction from local businesses including the banks when the family did take a stand is a key part of this story).

Overnight Reggio Calabria

Day 4

Tuesday, 6th Oct: Locri, Riace, Gioiosa Ionica

The Muzeo Nazionale della Magna Grecia is open from 9am and home to the Riace Bronzes – two large, well-preserved 5th century BC bronzes, found in the province of Reggio, are thought to be the most significant bronze sculptures from the Greek period and among the few survivors of works by its master sculptors. A chance to visit the museum before our departure up the Ionian coast.

Over the next two days we look at how different communities have responded to the influence of the ‘Ndrangheta.

The NGO         Meeting in Locri with the head of a well-known anti- mafia NGO.  Meeting with a leading anti-mafia activist, whose family has first-hand experience of the ‘Ndrangheta.

The Mayor      Next we head to Riace where for many years the mayor of a small town campaigned against the ‘Ndrangheta and became globally famous in the process. When mass immigration became one of the biggest earners for the ‘Ndrangheta he came up with an unusual response.

Overnight Gioiosa Ionica

Day 5

Wednesday, 7th Oct: Gioiosa Ionica, Sant' Andrea

The Cooperative         In Gioiosa Ionica we meet with a co-operative of businesses that have stood up against the mafia. They argue that Calabrian society needs to undergo fundamental change, comparing the region to a failed state – where endemic poverty has enabled corruption and takeover of the economy and local administration. They aim to transform the local economy and undermine the ‘Ndrangheta in the process.

Afternoon meeting with a foreign journalist who has just published a book on the ‘Ndrangheta, in nearby Soverato. We will talk about a forthcoming book and get an outsider’s perspective on Calabrian society.

Overnight Gioiosa Ionica

Day 6

Thursday, 8th Oct: Catanzaro

In Catanzaro we meet the politicians whose responsibility it is to hold the mafia to account. Local newspaper editor outlines the relationship between the political parties and organised crime.

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.

Overnight Catanzaro

Day 7

Friday, 9th Oct: Cantanzaro

Further north we visit the vineyard of the Cantine Librandi in Ciro’ Marina. Zora has been studying the area for her PhD, looking at the clan Farao-Marincola which controls the area and produces wine.

We review the week over dinner with our experts Tobias Jones & Zora Hauser.

Overnight Catanzaro

 

Day 8

Saturday, 10th Oct: Calabria

Tour Ends after breakfast

 

Day 9

Sunday, 11th Oct: tour dates changed- ends on Saturday, 10th Oct

Please note the tour ends on Saturday 10th October.  The itinerary had changed and focusses on Calabria, we are no longer visiting Naples.



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Saturday 3 October 2020 – Saturday 10 October 2020

Cost £4200  Single supplement  £500                                                                   

We tour the picturesque coastal region of Calabria.  The itinerary has changed & we are no longer travelling to Naples.  Contact us for full details of the new itinerary & more information on what we are doing to enable as to travel as safely as possible this autumn.

What’s Included

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.

Evaluating risks & keeping informed

We are carefully monitoring all updates on Covid19. We are in contact with our tour experts as well as a variety of local contacts in the region- getting first-hand information. We are also keeping up to date with the FCO travel guidelines, Public Health England, and the European Centre for Disease Prevention & Control.

Your safety is our first priority. We anticipate that there may be adjustments to the itinerary prior to departure, or on tour, and we have experience in adapting to changing circumstances, being flexible and are able to plan for contingencies.

Please contact us for full details on the precautions we are implementing to help minimise risk of Covid19 on all our tours.

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.

Group size

As on all our expert-led tours the groups are deliberately small and we have limited spaces are available. Our group tours are generally small, never more then 12 and frequently less then 6, which is very small by industry standards. We anticipate a maximum of 10 participants on this tour, but the number of travellers may be lower.

Visa

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.

Weather

Daytime temperatures in Calabria will range from high teens, to mid 20s Centigrade (C) with overnight temperatures dropping by around 5-10 C.

Dress

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.

Medical Requirements

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

Currency is Italy is the Euro.

Electricity

Electricity supply is 230 volts, 2 round pin European plugs.

Internet access

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.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is a requirement for all our tours. Please ensure we have your travel insurance details prior to departure.

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Tobias Jones

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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“Political Tours is the only offer I am aware about for people who are seriously interested in politics”
CM, September 2017

“I have been on a few tours before, but not one of them compared with this one. This was by far the best. Of course, the material content, and the time and place of its setting had a lot to do with it, but there were other factors. The size and mix of each group was about right, and having both yourself, and a local expert with us was a big advantage, able to sort out en route problems too, and help set the tone and atmosphere. The tour itinerary was very detailed, and could hardly have been more so.”
CB, US Elections 2016

“PT can take me to tricky places I’d like to know more about – with a small group of like minded people. And they can do that impeccably.”
CF, September 2017

“What convinced me that Political Tours would suit me was a recommendation from like minded people, as well as the locations PT explore. Plus the size of the group: Max 14 tour size also sounded manageable.”
Israel & Palestine, Sept 2017

“Tour experts were excellent! They all had their own perspective/point of view, but that´s good. We had many speakers in addition to them, so onesidedness was not a problem at all.”
CM, Israel & Palestine, September 2017

“Political Tours introduced me to some interesting people (including fellow travelers); it took me to places and to people I would have never accessed as an ordinary tourist.”
MS, September 2017

“As a rule, I don’t do group tours. But I make an exception for PT given the value I’ve experienced every time – and the Baltics was my 6th PT”
August 2017

“It was the first time that I had been part of any tour group – it was very well run and the group members and leaders were great.”
Israel & Palestine, September 2017

“A must for anyone with an interest in politics and current affairs who want to meet like minded people. I would recommend Political Tours for the detailed organisation, visits to places not usually open to the general public and for the more adventurous, the exciting countries you visit”
CB, US Elections, 2016

“Quite the most comprehensive way of finding out what makes a country and the individuals in it tick. PT arrange access to all sorts of different people and experiences that would be impossible to access on one’s own and the organisation is excellent. The tours aren’t cheap, but, when you consider all that is on offer, they are very good value for money.”
Russia, May 2016

“I would recommend the tours to anyone interested in current political events because the experience offered the sort of access that experienced journalists have, minus the pressure to report back of course. Also the guarantee of the company of people with similar interests.”
VH, US Elections, 2016

“As usual on PT trips the speakers were of high quality and interesting . They were just the right length of time as well . Not too long so I was able to absorb a lot of information and not get overloaded . As I have already mentioned to you.”
Lebanon, March 2016

“We also thoroughly enjoy travelling with you both because you are deadly serious except when you are deadly fun.”
Lebanon, 2016

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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.

Recommended Reading

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)

Books:

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

Christ Stopped at Eboli: The Story of a Year, Carlo Levi

Films:

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)

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