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Mafia-free travel in Sicily

If we plan to travel to Sicily, the prospect of it gives us pure joy. We look forward to the first-class coffee, delicious ricotta, juicy tomatoes and olives and of course the beautiful beaches, mountain landscapes and the breathtaking Etna volcano. On the other hand, what often receives less attention when planning a trip is the mafia-like machinations on site.

In fact, as a traveler, you don't notice much of it. Nevertheless, it is normal everyday life for many Sicilians. Many companies, including a large number of tourist businesses, pay protection money (“pizzo”) to the mafia as a matter of course. It is seen as a kind of tax that has been able to develop in Sicily over decades and has a long tradition. Hardly anyone speaks about it, but the Sicilian mafia still acts like a kind of shadow government, which often even provides jobs, apartments and medical care in the region, which is characterized by high unemployment. The corona crisis and the difficult economic situation have ensured that organized crime has actually strengthened rather than weakened their position.

View into a Sicilian alley

How social movements bravely fight the mafia

Fortunately, there are now civil society initiatives that no longer want to take the whole thing for granted. The initiative "Farewell", Which translates as" Goodbye protection money! "And encourages companies to stop being blackmailed and instead report incidents to the police. While the mafia was able to rely on the fearful silence of the people for decades, with "Addiopizzo" they have received a serious opponent.

The movement was founded in 2004 by a group of friends who were actually planning to open a bar in Palermo. For fear of possible extortion of protection money by the mafia, however, they refrained from doing their thing and without further ado founded the “Addiopizzo” initiative. In a guerrilla action they distributed stickers with the inscription "UN INTERO POPOLO CHE PAGA IL PIZZO È UN POPOLO SENZA DIGNITÀ" (in German: "A whole people who pays protection money is a people without dignity") in the cityscape of Overnight Palermo.

In a night and fog action, the organization distributed these stickers in Palermo

Shop where protection money is not paid

Since then, the anti-mafia movement has bravely opposed organized crime on the ground. With success: More than 1.000 companies are now part of the movement, which by the way can also be easily recognized as travelers by the sticker with the inscription “Pago chi non paga” - in English “I pay those who don't pay” that are often stuck to the doors of shops. These stickers can now be found more and more frequently, especially in larger cities. In the app of the same name the members of the movement are clearly listed and so the app can help to make mafia-free consumer decisions.

Experience mafia-free tourism with "Addiopizzo Travel"

In 2009, the tour operator “Addiopizzo Travel” established itself as an offshoot of the anti-mafia movement. They offer different city tours, which are always about the influence of the Mafia and the counter-movement and which show sustainable alternatives.

From former mafia land to organic farming

What has already been successfully established in metropolises and urban areas thanks to "Addiopizzo" is still difficult in rural regions. In sparsely populated regions in particular, the fear of the mafia-like structures is unfortunately still great, and so it is comparatively easy for organized crime there.

A great initiative that is opposing this is "Free Earth"(In German:" Free Land "). Thanks to the organization, municipalities can assign confiscated land to cooperatives, which can then lease the property on a long-term and cost-effective basis. According to high ecological and social standards, the people of "Libera Terra" use the former Mafia land for organic farming. Today everything grows here, from fruit and vegetables to wine and olives, which in turn are processed into high-quality products and in the "Libera" shops sold. In addition to the political statement, the products are now very much appreciated by the local slow food scene because of their first-class quality.

Set an example yourself on your next trip to Sicily

The commitment of the two initiatives shows that a life without the Mafia is quite possible in Sicily. As travelers, we can also make a contribution by recognizing this valuable work and supporting it on our next trip to Sicily - for example by taking part in an “Addiopizzo” city tour or by buying products where people bravely fight the mafia every day put.

Read more on the topic:

Farewell (in English)

Free Earth (in English)



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