The Italian Mafia

Young anti mafia protesters in southern Italy. Thanks to Osvaldo_Zoom for the photo.

The Italian mafia is over 3,000 years old and much of the available literature on the logic behind why the Italian mafia formed is centered on numerous periods of invasion and exploitation by conquering states and armies in Italy.   Thereafter, Italians became “clannish” and started to rely on “familial ties for safety, protection, justice, and survival”, according the FBI.

Four Large Mafia Groups in Italy

In Italy, there are four large mafia regions, including Sicily (mafia Siciliana), Naples (Camorra), Calabria (‘Ndrangheta), and Puglia (Sacra Corona Unita).

The Sicilian mafia has a focus in trafficking arms (military), political corruption, trafficking of drugs (heroin), and racketeering. The group is also famously violent and on the 23rd of May, 1992 a large bomb was detonated and killed the Italian magistrate (a director of criminal affairs in Rome) Giovanni Falcone and his wife (including three police guards). On July 19th of the same year, Judge Paolo Borsellino (along with 5 bodyguards) was killed in Palermo (Borsellino was Falcone’s replacement)

The mafia in Naples (Camorra) is the largest organized crime group in Italy (with 7000 members) and focuses on drug trafficking and smuggling, as well as “money laundering, extortion, alien smuggling, robbery, blackmail, kidnapping, political corruption, and counterfeiting.”

The ‘Ndrangheta or Calabrian mafia was formed by ousted Sicilians in the late 19th century and the word ‘Ndrangheta means courageous. According to the FBI, the group specializes in political corruption and kidnapping.

The Sacra Corona Unita group from Puglia is one of the most newly recognized clans in southern Italy (specifically, Brindisi). The group focuses on smuggling (including arms and drugs) and protecting the coast of south easterns Italy.

The Real Life Mafia

In our region of Italy (Calabria), everyone sees the influence of the ‘Ndrangheta and, for many, it’s become an accepted way of life. As an Italian American, the idea of small clans running large portions of a given country (without the consent of the people and via violent and threatening means) is a foreign and abominable concept. As a child growing up in the 1980’s, I overhead sad stories of my aunt’s being forced out of their small retail businesses due to local extortion and the violent death of our Uncle’s father, who was gunned down outside of his home.

The mafia, in Italy (and especially southern Italy), is a real and ugly way of life (and a big business , with some experts stating that the collective mafia groups have cash reserves of €65bn, making the mafia the largest bank in Italy).  A reality that is often misrepresented by suggestions that the Italian people do not mind organized crime running their communes, villages/towns, and cities (as though the mafia is and ought to be part of everyday life). In places like Lamezia Terme local townspeople have organized a literary festival to give voice to the fight against the mafia.  And the well known story, and film, of the Sicilian woman Rita Atria who broke the code of silence (omerata’) and testified at multiple anti mafia hearings.

Note: An interesting discussion is surfacing on our Facebook page about the merits of discussing the mafia in relation to the Italian life, head on over to participate and let us know what you think (or simply comment here).


  1. Every organized crime organization specializes in political corruption, but ‘Ndrangheta is most noted these days for drugs, particularly cocaine, and arms trafficking. Kidnapping people and hiding them in the Aspromonte Mountains is very old school and rarely carried out anymore — but the hugest difference between ‘Ndrangheta and all the rest of the Italian organized crime organizations is that ‘Ndrangheta is made up of blood families, and this is a crucial difference because it means there are very few “pentiti” or turncoats (since everyone is related); it’s exceedingly difficult for authorities to infiltrate. ‘Ndrangheta is also widely considered to be the most powerful crime syndicate in Europe certainly, and possibly the world.

  2. Also, regarding fighting ‘Ndrangheta specifically, your readers might be interested in the Ammazzateci Tutti movement, which started in Locri, Calabria after the murder of Francesco Fortugno: /

  3. thank you for sharing more about this topic.  It is one I think which is of interest to many, but so little really seems to be known about it.  All the best.  Simon

  4. The only bad thing about being italian is the stigma that we are all connected somehow. If the mafia started out as a protection method for survival it is now gone. In it’s place is this disgusting method of terror into making honorable people terrified. The only thing I am not proud of the italian culture is the mafia. It really gives us a bad name.

  5. Greggory Keith Haley

    Hello to you all at the Sicilian mafia,my mame in the past I came up for you when I first staring e-mailing you all is”The Family”if you remember.yuesterday,this Gregg K.Haley.I e-mailed you all about the Artwork Fortune of mine that has experienced theft by the actress Heather Loclear and mostly the Acting Industry.I now feel that the original Heather Locklear isn’t even alive,the actress that was the character in the TV show T.J.Hooker,I feel needs also to be proven in a Court of Law that it’s very important of that fact,because the current Actress uses it as a criminal-like-leupold,to escape and evade all Law Enforcement by her going by different name,mostly in public.I have a Psychic theory that the original Locklear(T.J. Hooker) has been deceased for about 18 yrs.The current day imposter Locklear,I’ll have to investigate to obtain hercurrent name and alias’s that she goes by for the purpose of her and The Acting Industry picking on “The Family” as well as myself.I’ll stay in contact by e-mail and also that two daily if I’m not doing some day labor,I can be found here at The Main El Paso Library,501 N.Oregon St.,El Paso,Tx. as well as The St. Patrick’s Catholic Church on Mesa St. in El Paso,Tx.for any of your people to talk and visit with me as well,and to set up Legal Representation for you and I to benefit as well.Thanks and Godbless you all and have a great day. G.K.H. (Tue.) 7-16-13 12:0p. and my distishing marks that I have is a Right-Eye Disability,that is my Right Eye is a little-bit out of alignment to verify that it’s me,that is.Thanks again.

  6. Greggory Keith Haley

    Hello to you all “The Family”,this is Gregg K. Haley,and I hope you all are doing well and just doing a daily check in,and I hope you all have been considering my recent past e-mails with much seriousness,that I’m also sure will benefit you all as well as myself,and Godbless you all and have a great day and an upcoming weekend. G.K.H. (Fri.) 7-19-13 1:20p. Tx.Id.7371,Soc.Sec.7553,El Paso,Tx.

  7. Greggory Keith Haley

    Hello to you all at”The Family”,this is Gregg K. Haley,I’m sorry,but I didn’t log the time correctly on the last e-mail to you all,please forgive me,and Godbless you all and have a great day. G.K.H. (Mon.),7-22-13,1:44p.,Tx.Id.7371,Soc.Sec.7553,El Paso,Tx.79901

  8. Greggory Keith Haley

    Hello to you all”The Family”,I hope you all are doing just fine today,this is Gregg K.Haley.I like for you all to know that I’m feeling excitement coming on to help my future finances,as if there if it’s sort of near,but not clear and present at this point and time.Please consider all my e-mails in the past with much seriousness.I just hope that all you can help me soon.Thanks and have a great day and Godbless you all as well. G.K.H.,(Tue.),7-23-13,12:33p.,El Paso,Tx.

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