Corleone, the Sicilian Mafia

Corleone and the Mafia: an unbreakable link

Corleone is a village in the country region of Palermo. Its fame started when its name was linked to the name of the mafia Family in the American movie saga “The Godfather.” In fact, the Corleone family does not exist. It is a cinematographic fiction. The truth is much more painful, because post-war Sicilian mafia grew on from its association with ascending Mafia bosses from Corleone, who after several mafia wars managed to get the upper hand over other groups, controlling effectively, through friendships and allegiances, the whole of Sicily. A slice of life experienced from the 1950s until today has been described in great detail in the recent book Don Vito, written by the son of Don Vito Ciancimino, a true Corleonese, who was a well-respected citizen and later became Mayor of Palermo. For more than two decades, he also represented an example of the connivance between governmental institutions and the Mafia causing the so-called “sack” of Palermo, which destroyed vast territories of agricultural land within Palermo’s “Golden Basin” (Conca d’Oro). Churches, villas, houses and refined palazzi of great architectural worth were burnt to the ground to provide space for the construction of gigantic reinforced concrete buildings commissioned by and belonging to mafia enterprises. This allowed the Mafia to extend its power over all licit and illicit matters connected with the local economy. During this period, a war with all Sicilian legal institutions was initiated, that in the 1980s and 1990s caused the unprecedented slaughter of all police officers, judges, paramilitary police members (carabinieri), journalists and members of other institutions who attempted to oppose its power. Today, after the arrest of all the first-rate mafia bosses, their close and distant relatives still live in Corleone, the place that functioned as the bloody brawn and the brain of the Mafia. Even if overwhelmed by reinforced concrete building, Corleone maintains some of the characteristic features of the old silent code of omertà in this island, seemingly silent and lethargic, but still fiery in its heart through a collective will to re-establish its ancient power. Corleone deserves a visit to better understand the origins of the mafia phenomenon. It is possible to explore the places where the mafia bosses and their lieutenants lived, and quite often hid, such as the building where the mafia boss Bernardo Provenzano hid several times. The place now functions as an anti-Mafia laboratory where products coming from the territories confiscated to mafia bosses are on sale. Indeed today, a few dozen businesses exist in territories previously belonging to Mafia mobsters, which function as cooperatives of young people dedicated to production business. From a naturalistic viewpoint, an evoking scenery is offered by the “twin rocks”, one on the east side of the populated area, where the Castello Soprano lies along with ruins of an ancient watchtower; and the other in the centre of the village, the result of a geological limestone block collapse from the mountain face on which a medieval castle was later built (now a Franciscan retreat). At the foot of Castello Soprano you can enjoy a spectacle of nature: the so-called “Waterfall of the two Rocks”, which was formed by a leap of the stream of San Leonardo, an affluent of the Belice river that creates a suggestive and natural little lake surrounded by the ruins of an aqueduct, probably of Arab origins. The stream and its waterfall flow within a truly natural gorge, forming an inner canyon which can be explored on foot during summertime. Other tourist locations in this area are to be found near the groves of Rocca Busambra and Ficuzza, where the Royal Hunting Lodge lies, a sumptuous palazzo built in 1799 by the Bourbon King Ferdinand IV. Another visit-must is to “The Dragon’s Gorges” along the river Frattina.

Villas near to Corleone, the Sicilian Mafia