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A purely analytical perception...


 

If you took the Roman epoch away from Italy, there would not be a lot to talk about. The history of Italy is that of turmoil and constant battles. It is a history of glorious monuments. It is a story of the founding of one of the world’s great religions, and it is the history that religion’s leaders. In short, the history of Italy it the history of Rome and the Roman Catholic Church, and both certainly had much more than it’s the average 15-minutes of fame.

 

Simplistically, the Romans blasted the daylights out of the Etruscans and took over much of Italy in the 5th century BC. The millennium, which lasted from 500 B.C. to 500 A.D., saw the most magnificent Empire in the world’s history. It was not great just because the people had a natural proclivity for conquering their neighbors; it was great because it contained all the elements that are necessary to attain that status. It was a socially well-ordered, architecturally superior, militarily stronger and politically sophisticated society. It was logistically light-years ahead of its time and militarily was probably most cohesive and brutal fighting force that has ever existed on earth.

 

After centuries of a unified Empire, political, military and cultural factors divided the Empire into the Eastern and Western Roman Empire, with the Eastern ruled from Constantinople and the Western from Rome. As the darkness of the barbarian invasions swept over the Western Roman Empire, Rome came to be controlled by the Papacy, seat of the Roman Catholic Church, while the rest of the Western Roman Empire was divided up between any number of neighboring countries. Pope Gregory I was able to set up a religiously controlled government in Rome that had some ability to defend itself, while the rest of Italy fell prey to the Lombard’s. Meanwhile, the Franks under the leadership of Pepin the Short, took over France from the, and his son Charlemagne had himself proclaimed Holy Roman Emperor in Milan in 800 A.D. As the Franks then declined, the Germans, under King Otto I, invaded Italy in 961 and Otto had himself crowned Holy Roman Emperor by the Pope.

 

In the 11th Century, the Normans, Vikings who had settled in France, kept on roving, raping and pillaging until they grabbed Italy’s south, and they in turn were succeeded in that region by the Angevins from Naples and then the Aragonese kings of Sicily. In the northern and central part of the country, highly fortified city-states arose similar to those of early Greece. These states, while never in the league with Rome during her glory years, in some cases did substantial commerce and developed strong armies. These city-states led the cultural and technological revival in Italy that is known as the Renaissance, primarily because the competition between them was fierce.

 

Once again during the 15th Century, Italy became the object of attention from a number of warring countries. Austria, Spain and France all had a piece of Italy during those years. Various foreign governments pushed for control of Italy from the 15th to the 18th Century, but it was eventually the Spanish Bourbons and the Austrian Hapsburgs who ended up carved up the territory. This remained the situation until the French Revolution and the era of Napoleon, who badly wanted Italy for himself. When Napoleon fell to the English and the Prussians, the Austrians moved back to take control of Italy in 1815.

 

However, by this time the people were demanding independence and were not going to be denied. Italy’s quiet revolution was completed in 1861, primarily through the efforts of the leaders of the Italian people, Cavour, Garibaldi and King Victor Emmanuel II. Even then, the country was still in a bunch of pieces, but this was now a dynamic project. Consolidation continued at a torrid pace, as Venetia was united with Italy in 1866 and greater Rome in 1870, finishing the pieces of the puzzle.

 

After having backed the Germans and Austrians early in World War I, Italy switched sides and joined the Allies. As a reward, they were given South Tryrol, Trieste, and Istria. Unfortunately, substantial social unrest occurred immediately after the war ended in virtually every country in Europe, striking the victors and the vanquished. Fascism reared its ugly head in Italy, as in many countries in this inter-war period, but perhaps first in Italy in the persona of Benito Mussolini, who in 1922 seized power and went to war with Ethiopia in 1936. Three years later, he conquered Albania and entered World War II on the side of Germany and his very best friend, Adolph Hitler.

 

Benito was a great Fascist, but a bad general. Italy surrendered in 1943, but the Germans anticipated this, kidnapped Benito and continued to fight the Allies until it all collapsed in 1945. In 1946, Italy became a republic and dumped their king, but they had not yet paid the price for choosing the wrong side in the war. In 1947, they lost their colonies and substantial territory, some of which was regained in 1954. Since that time, Italy has seen more governments come and go than just about any other country on earth, perhaps more than fifty. Italian politics seemed to be a constant face off between the communist and pro-Western parties, and it wasn’t long after one took office that corruption or poor management brought it down. As these governments waxed and waned, the Mafia rose to real power, and no matter which side was running the government, they were there behind the scenes.

 

If that wasn’t bad enough, during the 1970s, a leftist guerrilla movement became popular with kidnapping as their modus operendi. In 1978, the guerillas kidnapped the former premier, Aldo Moro and murdered him. This caused a popular uprising, diminishing the threat from the left, but the Mafia remained behind the scenes and corruption continued to dictate politics. Corruption probes were initiated, and in 1992, hundreds were jailed, including several former prime ministers. The country revised its constitution in 1993 and for the first time ended proportional representation in the senate. This reform brought about the downfall of Premier Amato.

 

Since that time, the Italian Government has done what it has always done; change. However, something constructive had taken place during the decade of the 1990s. The Common Market was finally maturing, and the people were looking to fight their skirmishes on contemporary fronts. Economics seized center stage; the direction of the Mafia changed and Italy made tremendous strides in the area of financial respectability.

 

There was still a question as to whether Italy was going to be able to qualify for early admission to the Euro currency union. Nevertheless, they trounced both Germany and France economically and easily cleared all of the difficult hurdles. This turned out to be a major embarrassment to the Germans, who had degraded Italy’s ability to get anything right. As we speak, Italy is solidly democratic, it is fiscally responsive and, for the first time in centuries, the Italians seem to have their house in order. Nevertheless, there are some loose ends to be addressed, the most important of which is the altered direction of the Mafia.

 

Italy’s renowned Mafia originated in Sicily during Medieval times as a private police department for wealthy landowners. The city-state governments of that era were not able to offer the people protection from roving bands of outlaws, so some enterprising businessmen got together and came up with a deal that couldn’t be refused and offered these and other services to the landowners at a price. This was accomplished in much the same manner as Pinkerton’s protected the trains in the Wild West of America.

 

"Many historians view the Mafia as a product of Sicily’s tumultuous history. For example, the Mafia’s code of behavior can be traced back to centuries of corrupt and brutal government by foreign conquerors of Sicily,, which taught most Sicilians to regard government with suspicion and hostility. To some extent, the Mafia is rooted in Sicilian feudal society that lasted until the 1800’s, when most of Sicily’s land belonged to a few people. Peasants cultivated the fields for the benefit of the landowners, and landlords hired armed guards to maintain order, with force if necessary. These armed guards, the precursors of the Mafiosi, became intermediaries between the peasants and the landowner, on the one hand keeping the peasants in line and on the other guaranteeing the landlord that the harvest would be gathered and the animals tended." ()

As time went on, more and more people who were informed of the services being offered jumped at the chance to give them a try. The operation soon became extremely successful, the Mafia expanded and developed a sophisticated chain of command requiring loyalty of their soldiers to their capos. Because of these loyalty agreements, the Italian Mafia remained both secretive and extremely powerful for many years and has been silent partners in many of Italy’s recent governments. In the early years of the 20th century, only the very rich could vote in Italy. The Mafia used this selectivity to garner votes through various strong-armed means. In this way, the criminal organization was able to control numerous political offices. Mussolini, who had just been appointed prime minister of Italy by Italian King Victor Emmanuel III, had a simple solution for the Mafia interest in government, he made elections illegal. Not being satisfied with that and unwilling to share power with anyone, he declared war on the organization, which as a result was forced to go underground until he died towards the end of World War II.

 

However, neither the United States or Britain were willing to see either Communists or Fascists control the country after the war was over. They needed to identify a group that could keep the people’s attention and were simultaneously, entrepreneurs. It wasn’t an illogical move to start naming Mafia related mayors to run the cities as they were liberated. This brought the Mafia back to power in Italy and also gave it a tad of respectability. To some degree, the organization over-reached their Allied given mandate and determined that Sicily should be given the right to withdraw from it union. However, allied generals saw this as adding a chaotic element to an already boiling pot and gave a strong indication that if this occurred, they would be back and would be blown away. The Mafia well understood this language and gave up their plans.

 

It was determined by the leadership of the Mafia, that they would support the Christian Democratic Party and were accepted into the political organization without any further discussion. The Mafia was an excellent addition to the party as they went around murdering substantial numbers of Communists running for office in Sicily. In order to maximize their message, the Communists would usually be publicly bushwhacked before major elections. This had two very positive results, the bullet-ridden bodies were left in the town squares as a memento of what could happen to people that did not vote with correctness. Secondarily, the British and American were pleased with what as happening and tacitly gave their blessing.

 

These folks were also very good with crowds. When large groups of people gathered to support candidates opposed to the Mafia slate, it was considered fair game gun them down as though they were in a turkey shoot. "communist farmers from the area around the town of Portella della Ginestra gathered to celebrate May Day and the electoral victory. With the protection and support of the Mafia, a Sicilian bandit named Salvatore Giuliano and his gang opened fire on the crowd, killing 11 people" (). However, there was substantial public disapproval over this kind of frivolity and worried that they were going to get a bad name, the Mafia would often execute these offenders or turn them over to the police. During that period time, many said that the Mafia was responsible for more arrests in Italy than the police. These hoodlums won high praise for their actions from newspapers, police and the people; they were indeed on a roll. Things appeared to be happening in almost the fashion as they were in the book Alice and Wonderland. We site and example:

 

"In 1955, a member of Italy’s highest court, Giuseppe Guido Lo Schiavo wrote an outright defense of the Mafia: ‘People say the Mafia does not respect the police and the judiciary. It’s untrue. The Mafia has always respected the judiciary and justice, has bowed before its sentences, and has not interfered with the judge’s work. In the persecution of bandits and outlaws … it has actually joined together with the police." () To graphically illustrate that statement; in every Italian government since World War II, money simply seemed to disappeared from both the central bank and from major infrastructure projects. The Mafia claimed that it was being held because they were concerned about criminal elements within the government. I guess that does make some sense.

 

Historically, the Mafia had avoided executing public figures, not because they didn’t want to get their hands dirty, but because they thought it would bring the bad public relations. For the most part during the two-plus decades after World War II had ended, although they at time murdered someone that caused consternation, for the most part, they only killed those that couldn’t bring them bad publicity. However, that suddenly changed when drugs came into vogue. When police tried to derail the heroin trafficking that was going on, they were summarily executed. The genie was now out of the bottle. "During the 1980’s, the Mafia killed chief prosecutors, police officials and major politicians, shocking many Italians into realizing how mistaken they had been to tolerate the growth of Mafia power. Investigations showed that not only had the Mafia polluted life through the drug trade, but also it had taken advantage of Italy’s public works projects, threatening the country’s ability to control its national debt." ()

 

However, there were new worlds to conquer for the mobsters from Sicily As the years passed the Italian Mafia had both expanded and become more sophisticated, if only because the appointments they have accepted are now a far cry from what they had been in the past. An unusual example of this would be the disposal of toxic waste. Believe it or not, this is an extremely appealing field for criminals, as it is universal in nature (all major industrial companies create enormous amounts of toxic waste) and is extremely expensive to get rid of. Italian companies have to pay legitimate carters varying amounts on a sliding scale to get rid of waste products, based on their degree of toxicity.

 

Moreover, at the high end, it can be economically expedient to hire thugs to dump the toxic stuff in Third World Countries, rather than to have it legally disposed of. The Italian Mafia has set up substantive disposal operations in Somalia and Mozambique, and they are using those countries for the discarding of the very worst stuff coming out of Italy. Somalia represents a particularly attractive dumping ground for the Mafia, because there is no effective central government, so no one is watching the store. Locals don’t even know what the stuff is and are even paid to assist the Mafia in off-loading operations. To make matters worse, according to an Italian parliamentary study, local governments, not knowing that the Mafia was running the waste disposal business in their area gave them contracts to get rid of some of the more volatile items, such as industrial and toxic waste. The report went on to say that some of the toxic waste ends up dumped in caves or waterways, or buried under farmland.

 

Nevertheless, in spite of the fact that the unloading of toxic waste is at the high-profit end of the business, the Italian Mafia has managed to gain control of approximately 30% of the normal rubbish disposal business in Italy as well, picking up and dumping about 35 millions tons of the stuff a year. This is certainly not a small business, in that gross revenues have been estimated to be almost $7 billion. "The defining factor is the search for the cheapest way to get rid of rubbish, with no control over its final destination, with some of it ending up in caves, waterways and even buried on overseas." ()

 

One of dismal results of this operation occurred in Somalia in the mid-1990s. Italian solders were sent over there as part of an overall peacekeeping force arranged for by the United Nations. Unbeknownst to them, the Italian solders were stationed a tad too close to a Mafia toxic waste dumping ground in that country, and many of the soldiers became severely ill. Talk about the chickens coming home to roost, there most be some poetic justice when Italian soldiers have to travel all the way to a hellish place like Somalia to get sick from Italian toxins that had been illegally dumped there by the Italian Mafia.

 

This has led to even more potentially explosive criminal activities. The Italian Mafia, in connection with other Eastern European criminal organizations, has taken advantage of both Italy’s porous frontiers () and the starvation wages that many local bureaucrats are paid. They have entered into the business of moving nuclear and other radioactive materials from places like Russia to the non-nuclear wannabes as Libya, Iran and Iraq. The materials that are most useful for creating these weapons of mass destruction are cesium, mercury and uranium, which seem to flow randomly across one border after another on their odyssey to an ultimate clandestine destination.

 

Another fascinating Mafia operation took place in Sicily, where the Mafia in a brazen operation actually took over the University of Messina. In the police raid that followed, seventy-six people were arrested, including politicians and prosecutors. At this school, for a price, you could get a degree, pass your subjects or have your grades increased. You could get a medical degree or immunology degree from the University of Messina for about $10,000. It did not end there, for drugs were being stolen and sold through the university’s pharmacological labs. "We uncovered a criminal ring headed by Longo, a leader of the Mafia in Sicily who exercised a huge influence on the university’s management," said Messina prosecutor Luigi Croce. "The ring basically had a three-pronged organization, which bribed professors, some of whom took an active part in managing the ring, controlled the university’s administration and managed the local drug trade." ()

 

Incidentally, the reason that the Mafia had been so successful for such an extended period of time was the fact that it remained a very secret organization. Members were absolutely required to be Sicilian and could not have any relatives that were in law enforcement. Their leaders are called men of honor and they control exclusive territories. Everyone in the Mafia is obliged to take an oath when they are first admitted, never to betray the organization and not to disclose any of the groups activities. Who would ever believe that the Mafia controls one out of every five cafes in Italy, 15 percent of the hotels and 18 per cent of the bars and ice-cream parlors? But that’s small change, 70% of the cement industry is under Mafia domination in Italy and they control substantial interests in travel agencies, old people’s homes, shops, antiques markets, loan-sharking, protection, bootlegged CDs, cassettes and public companies. However, for some unknown reason, their investment of choice is that of the pizzeria. They own an overwhelming majority of those establishments and literally control the entire industry. However, recently they have begun to massively buy into securities traded on the Internet.

 

"Vast sums are dissolving into cyberspace and reappearing as stocks and shares in a criminal hijacking of electronic commerce. Surges in stock markets and even the euro’s roller-coaster ride are being attributed to the mafia’s mastery of online trading and banking. Gangs in other countries are eluding investigators by joining in an embryonic criminal network that is inventing techniques to exploit to exploit the internet’s freedom, according to a leaked report submitted to the Italian government." ()

 

Obviously, the new generation of Mafioso are not going to be satisfied with extortion, shakedowns or murder. The globe has coalesced to a degree that the moving and laundering of money has become so easy that it can be done by a 12-year old hacker. After all, if these kids can break into the Pentagon, they are not going to have any problem buying and selling securities on the net and moving them from on location to another. The Mafia is well aware that money has indeed become ubiquitous.

 

Since people can now visually see how economically well off they are or are not by watching Television or going onto the Internet, there is a substantial amount location-jockeying going on. People are advised how good life is elsewhere, they are packed onto ships, secreted at night in unfamiliar countries and put to work in sweatshops to pay their purported transportation charges, usually about $25,000 per head. The higher the standard of living in the country, the easier it is to get recruits to make the trip. Italy is a no risk location for these economic migrants. It has borders that leak like a sieve and, because of the Common Market, has free access to its neighboring countries. Thus, Italy is a problem waiting to happen:

 

"HAVOC and many Europeans have no idea of the horrors that unfold daily in thousands of sweatshops tucked in the grimy suburbs of the region’s great cities. Western Europeans have always prided themselves on the high standards their governments impose on employers and in the workplace: Workers have far more rights and protections than workers in the freewheeling United States. Those vaunted protections, however, are meaningless to the hundreds of thousands of immigrants now flooding into Europe from the old Soviet bloc, China, India, Southeast Asia and the Balkans – from anywhere, in other words, where millions of people are desperate to escape destitution. The economic refugees pay dearly for their flight to the prosperous West. Tens of thousands wind up working as forced laborers in factories, sweat shops and service industries run by mobsters throughout Western Europe’s thriving underground economy. Many of these immigrants become part of a secret underclass of the exploited which experts are now defining as tantamount to 21st Century slavery."

"…While Europol says the exploitation of immigrants is widespread throughout Europe – including Austria, Belgium, Britain and France – the problem is at its worst in Italy. Its 5,000-mile coastline is difficult to patrol. More important, Italy’s underground economy – at 28% of gross domestic product, by far the largest of any leading industrialized country – makes it a haven for mobsters intent on wringing big profits out of illegal immigrants. ‘The Phenomenon of human trafficking and enslavement is expanding – a fact that we (Europeans) should be ashamed of," says Italian Interior Minister Enzo Bianco. Italian authorities have long tolerated a thriving black economy as a kind of social safety net that is preferable to unemployment, refusing to crack down on clandestine enterprises. But as Italy has become more prosperous, the local workers have moved up the social ladder, leaving harder, industrial jobs in the black economy – such as the toxic process of curing leather – to immigrants. Academics think illegal immigrants fuel as much as 70% of Italy’s underground economy."

This has become more than just Italy’s problem, according to their neighbors. The fact that immigrants from anywhere on the globe will choose Italy as their debarkation point is not even in question. From there, it is an easy matter to transport the slaves to anywhere else in Europe they are needed, once they have landed in Italy. However, this enormous influx of illegal refugees is causing political problems particularly in Germany and Austria with their ultra-nationalistic political parties.

 

Citizens are becoming concerned about their own jobs, due to the simple fact that the people that are arriving in Italy will work for less. Thus, political parties similar to those of Hitler’s and Mussolini’s are gaining substantial strength among disenchanted citizens. Other countries have different problems with Italy’s unchecked immigration flow; France and the Nordic countries are facing severe unemployment, which gets more serious by the day as the fresh illegal immigrants arrive. There is becoming substantial discontent on the Continent, and if Italy isn’t able to close their borders soon, it would appear that others will have to do it for them. There are no less 27 gangs operating in Italy that are bringing in refugees on a regular basis from such places as China, Croatia, Slovenia, The Philippines and Bangladesh, says Nicola Maria Pace, head prosecutor of the Trieste Anti-Mafia Force.

 

Eastern European women are auctioned off at a central receiving and distribution center for illegal immigrants. The operators of prostitution rings turn up at these distribution centers to bid on the girls. The auctions usually occur on a stretch of road near Trieste. Interestingly enough, the slaves are stripped of all their possessions with the exception of a phone number, which shows how to reach their captor. () Police are able to get a handle on exactly the magnitude of the problem by keeping track of these numbers and finding out which of the gangs the prostitutes belong to. One of the more sobering rules is that when one gang steals from another gang and gets caught, the penalty is, well at least their fingers are cut off.

 

There are a number of reasons the Mafia finds good soil to cultivate recruits in the southern part of Italy. First and foremost is the fact that unemployment on the Island of Sicily runs in excess of 50%, but only as it relates to young men; even so, the average for the entire population it is still a dismal 35%. Moreover, because of the lack of legitimate work that is available, there is a Mafia employment agency waiting list about a mile long. Recently, two judges started talking about indicting the Mafia members in their jurisdiction, and while it may be surprise to most of us, both of their cars were blown up with the judges inside. This served as substantive notice that the Mafia was not about to roll over.

 

While we are on the subject, even those who have not seen the movie "Godfather" know that the American Mafia gave important support to the U.S. Army in their operations in Italy during World War II. "The Allies came along at just the right moment for the Mafia, which had been getting a hard time from Fascist leader Benito Mussolini, never a man to share power. In 1943, the U.S. War Department, the story goes, wanting as easy a landing on Sicily as possible, enlisted the aid of American-Sicilian Mafiosi. The U.S. troops were welcomed to Sicily by local Don Calogero Vizzini, who was made an honorary colonel on the spot and who in return presented the Americans with a list of local Mafiosi who were to be made mayors of various towns." If this particularly interesting story about how the Italian Mafia aided the United States and got paid back in spades is true, we must admit the post-war history of Italy makes a lot of sense.

 

The American Mafia has pretty well been dissipated by the use of sophisticated criminal laws and wire taping that has landed most of the Cosa Nostra leaders in solitary confinement in this country. Another plum in the arsenal of law enforcement agencies has been the use of identification modifications and safe houses for mob-whistleblowers. Moreover, in the United States there seems to be a substantial separation between the Mob and politics, although there is not much question that they can find common ground under almost any circumstances. The United States also has had a cadre’ of basically, incorruptible government agents dating back J. Edgar Hoover’s time.

 

Even with all these elements present, many of which are not readily available in Italy, it has taken the American system decades to make even a dent in Mafia power. Italy has very few of those tools too work with, the political officials are, more often than not, in the pay of the local Mafia, judges are either on the take or worried about being blown away and criminal justice teams are intimidated by corrupt politicians. Worst of all, Italy does not offer the same protection for witnesses that can be receive in the United States:

 

"Being a Mafia super-informer remains super-dangerous: since the most famous of the Pentiti, or turncoats, Tommaso Buscetta, turned state’s evidence in the early ‘80s, Mafia hit men have killed his wife, his three sons, in-laws, aunts and uncles. One estimate is that there have been as many as 33 Buscetta corpses since his evidence began to bring down former colleagues in the famous Mafia ’maxi-trial’." () (We would add to the short list of those that were blown away because of Buscetta’s cooperation, his brother and two of, his nephews.)

However, the now relative-less Buscetta was able to make a deal with Italian and American authorities to enter the American witness protection program under a new identity. Who knows, he could be your next-door neighbor.

 

In the meantime, there are always stories coming out in the Italian press about this mayor, that police or this judge who are surprisingly discovered to have on the payroll of the Mafia for years, without anyone ever being the wiser. On the rare occasions when they are caught, it sends an ominous message to those that may be interested in joining the fight on the side of justice. If people really believed that anyone they may talk to is involved with the corruption, they are not going to bother. Almost everyone has a family to protect. At the trial of former Christian Democrat Minister, Calogero Mannino, in 1997, Gioacchino Pennino, a former Mafia member that had turned informant stated, the Mafia had "inspired and conditioned many of the political candidates of those years in Palermo. Without Mafia support, it was impossible to enter and perform the public service " There is not much question that the Mafia controlled the vote in Sicily in those years and without its support it would have been unthinkable for anyone to win office in that area. Because the Mafia always delivered Sicily so overwhelmingly, it had a major effect on the outcome in Italian national elections.

 

Bairi Vailije Vaso Baosic, an interesting example, was the Chief of Police of Bar, which is located in Montenegro. "Guiseppe Selsi, deputy prosecutor of Bar, indicated that the Chief of Police was providing shelter in Montenegro to Italian Mafia members escaping from the pursuit of Italian police. It is mentioned that Baosic possibly received the sum of 50 million lira (about 50 thousand German Marks) a month from Italian Mafia "Sacra Corona Unita" for sheltering people whose names were on the international list of person wanted by Interpol."

 

"According to Italian press, Baosic is suspected for sheltering high ranking Italian gangsters, like the Tomazzo brothers and Rafelo Laraspata, Guiseppe Calamare and Santa Bantagata in Montenegro. Italian police claims that the other arrested (person) Djjuro Crnojevic is a member of "Sacra Corona Unita" for the last three years and has been present consistently at Mafia meetings which were monitored by Italian police."

It would seem that these folks came up with the ultimate way to beat a rap. Instead of buying a judge or an official, they seemed to have bought a country. However, if you can’t believe the American Government, then who can you believe?

 

"Italy has a large financial sector, although the country itself is not considered to be an important regional financial center. Italy is a drug consumption and transshipment point for Western European nations, and thus a site for the laundering of drug proceeds. The primary money laundering threat in Italy comes from organized criminal groups, located mainly in the southern part of the country. They engage in narcotics smuggling (in which South American drug traffickers are also believed to be involved), extortion, usury, kidnapping and illegal immigrant smuggling. The collapse of the Soviet bloc has strengthened links between Italian organized crime and its Russian and Albanian counterparts. Much of the illicit money is funneled into commercial and financial entities in Italy and abroad, including the bank and non-bank financial sector. The fight against money laundering in Italy is therefore centered on this area. Money launderers are reportedly buying up large amounts of real estate in Italy, especially hotels in resort areas, and are exporting large amounts of their ill-gotten gains to other countries in Europe for similar purchases. The increasing openness of the European market is likely to heighten this activity. The illegal gold market is also believed to be heavily used by money launderers. Money laundering activity in Italy was estimated informally in 1997 to total over $50 billion annually."

The common gossip in Italy is that the Mafia has closed Palermo’s Teatro Giuseppe Verdi, more commonly known as the Massimo Theater, which performed grand opera for ages. This was done when the Italian government made one of their regular announcements that they were going to crack down on crime. While the Mafia had heard this story before, they were taking no chances and sent a warning salvo aimed making sure that the government got the message. Its message was clear; "We can close down anything that you have in the country, if you don’t play ball with us." They kept the third largest operatic theater in the world closed for over 23 years and wouldn’t budge an inch. The government closed the opera house in order to make a few changes and that was the last time a performance was held for two decades. It was never a mater of money, more than enough was always available to make the necessary repairs. It just became a game between Mafia and the Government to see who had the biggest set of balls.

 

The Mafia has been using opera house closings for years to send distinct messages to the government, whenever they feel that things have gotten too hot: "…The fire at the Teatro Petruzzelli in Bari, Apulia, has been attributed to somebody – possibly the Intendante (director) – getting on the wrong side of a local Cosa Nostra boss. () The blaze that broke out on October 27, 1991,completely destroyed the theater where the 1835 "Naples" version of I Puritani had been premiered. The fact that the fire was found to have started in more than one place made it more than likely that the building had been torched." ()

 

But there was even more to the story than a mere power struggle which was attempting to show who was the real boss. In reality, Donald Sasson, a political analyst wrote, "Successive Italian governments have earmarked vast funds for the Sicilian region. Much of this has remained unspent in southern banks, providing liquid capital which could be injected into the circulation network of the Mafia economy." The Sunday Telegraph in an article written by David Mosford graphically illustrated that the real story was more appalling than anyone had ever dreamed: "As Cosa Nostra has grown more legitimate in Italy, it has been employed at local levels to collect and administer funds. This has enabled the boys to sit on money earmarked for distribution, and to milk lucrative contracts. In 1982, cash was made available for 1, 679 publicly funded crèches in the south – by 1997, only 73 had been set up. Similarly, at Palermo, work dragged on for decades which might have taken less than a year to complete elsewhere." ()

 

However, eventually a compromise was reached in 1996. Nevertheless, by that time, the technical team that was sent in to estimate the repair job that would be necessary found that rainwater had damaged the wall paintings within the auditorium. The price of the overall renovation went through the roof when the estimate of the painting’s restoration was given to the government. Eventually, even this problem was overcome and the opera house was reopened on April 23, 1999, with the performance of Aida. However, Pavarotti who was scheduled to star in the performance, bowed out at the last minute. Many said that it was another message from the Mafia. When it closed, it was only be for a short time while a few new exits were installed, the opera house was rewired and some hydraulic lifts were installed.

 

The Massimo is not the only theater in Italy believed to have been torched by the friendly guys from Sicily. The Teatro Petruzzeli in Bari, Apulia was burned to the ground on October 27, 1991 and the fire was attributed to an argument between the theater’s director and the local Mafia chieftain. Interestingly enough, although the Apulia fire department said something about spontaneous combustion; however, it was later shown that the fire broke out in nine different places at the same time and international record for the number of time a fire starting by itself at the same instant. Something similar happened in Venice at La Fenice opera house when on January 29, 1996 the entire complex was turned to ash. Once again, local police indicated that the Mafia was sending an important message regarding the arrest of some of their members.

 

Massimo De Bernart, the famed Italian conductor "called the destruction of the Petruzzelli one of "the three great scandals of Italy" the other two being the long-term closure of the Massimo and the destruction of Venice’s La Fenice…’I fear we will never see any of them again.’" The article concluded with, "During research for this article I spoke to many people in Italy, and to a number of others who know Italy well. Although, without exception, everyone concurred that they understood the Mafia to be behind these closures, no one was willing to be quoted directly. One source even warned about the wisdom of going into print at all. "These people mean business. You don’t mean to mess with them. Look what happened at Bari, Venice and Palermo.’"()

 

Moreover, the Italian Government continues to play a game of footsie with the Mafia. In a plea to the government to break with the past and dump Mafia influence, Italian Prime Minister Giuliano Amato said, "Italy needs an irrevocable commitment to a clean democracy, it needs a government that works – one which has made a clear break with the past." This was immediately after his government was pounded by numerous allegations of Mafia ties. Furthermore, the Mafia were absorbing such a high percentage of Italy’s gross domestic product that the country’s ability to fund public works products was severely being impacted. In addition, the treasury was bleeding money that it sorely needed and they only way they could replenish it was with every increasing taxation.

 

This in turn caused the multi-national companies that called Italy their home to rebel; oh they had been paying bribes till they were blue in the face for so long, many of them couldn’t even remember, but dismembering the Italian infrastructure was a horse of another color. They strongly indicated that they had enough of the government collusion with criminals that was bleeding the country white. They told the government that action in that regard had to occur now, and if it didn’t, Italy would be relegated to become a third world country. This concept didn’t sit well with the people and action was finally initiated by government officials called "Operation Clean Hands". "Experts on organized crime warn that the Mafia’s stronghold over certain businesses poses a threat to the rest of the economy: businesses whose main function is simply to turn over cash are likely to slash prices and put legal competitors out of business. Organized crime groups are also exploiting the latest technology. The possibility of transferring vast sums across the globe in seconds by electronic wizardry means the takings form drugs, prostitution, arms dealing and toxic waste trafficking can be turned pearly-white without leaving a trace." ()

 

The final straw for Amato’s administration, the 51st in the postwar period, was the simultaneous arrest of 1,400 Italian business and political leaders due to suspected Mafia relationships. Moreover, since the operation was initiated in February of 1992, a startling one-third of the Italian parliament had been indicted on criminal charges. Among the charges leveled against the government was that the Defense Minister, Salvo Ando, had gone to the Mafia to help him get votes. But he wasn’t the only one accused of having Mafia friends; for example, former Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti was said to have been witnessed by numerous people, kissing Salvatore Riina (), the Mafia ‘boss of bosses.’

 

"Now Andreotti – a man who has dealt on equal terms with world leaders like de Gaulle, Eisenhower, Thatcher, Mitterrand, Reagan and Gorbachev – stands accused of collusion with the Sicilian Mafia. Prosecutors in Palermo and Perugia claim that for more than 20 years, Andreotti used his power to fix organized-crime cases and met with Mafia bosses, and that he commissioned – or, at least, consented to – two murders…" ()

So that you are not left in doubt about the outcome of the Andreotti trial, a process that took six-and-a-half years, you should know what you could never have guessed, that Andreotti was found innocent of being the Mafia’s erstwhile chief political protector in Rome in October of 1999. Andreotti was on a roll, having been acquitted the previous month of charges that he had murdered a journalist. This was some performance from an eighty-year-old man who had been Prime Minister of Italy seven times and a minister in the country’s government thirty-three times. Fortunately for him, Andreotti’s political friend and mentor was Vittorio Sbardella; indeed, it was Vittorio who helped Andreotti get started.

 

"Vittorio Sbardella was one of the most representative and picturesque elements of the crooked old Christian Democrat power system in Italy. Any yet, with his bald, neckless head pressed straight into his barrel chest and his large hands, Sbarbella looked more like a gorilla than the typical unctuous Christian Democrat politician. Italian journalists had nicknamed him Lo Squalo, "the Shark," on account of his voracious hunger for bribes and his ruthlessness in dealing with opponents. It was no secret, and hardly a surprise that in, the mid-fifties, Sbardella had first appeared on the political scene as a neo-Fascist thug. In 1990, after local papers named his wife and son in connection with some shady business dealings, his fortunes stared to decline. In March 1992, the Euro MP Salvo Lima, his last friend in Andreotti’s camp was killed by the Mafia and, two months later, Sbardella, broke off all links with the Christian Democrat leader. Soon after, magistrates investigating the Roman side of the ‘Clean Hands’ corruption scandal had ensnared Sbardella in the net; he was abandoned by his supporters, who fled to join the rising stars of the media magnate Silvio Berlusconi and the neo-Fascist leader Gianfranco Fini…. Perhaps, Sbardella had provided the best portrait of himself at the time (he was in the prosecutors office on major charges). He claimed in his colorful Roman dialect: ‘Ho detto che so’ cattolico, Non d’esse santo.’ ‘I said I’m a Catholic, not a Saint’." ()

Salvatore Riina is not the kind of guy you would want as an enemy, if you had a choice. He was on trial for murdering an anti-Mafia magistrate in Reggio Calabria when he told the journalists viewing the court proceedings that the law protecting informers should be abolished because they had become paid witnesses. Riina then named three very prominent Italians who were anti-mafia crusaders as informers. His naming of these men from the courtroom was tantamount to signing their death warrants, according to the authorities. "His public naming of the three men," according to Tommaso Buscetta (), Italy’s most prominent ’pentito’ (Mafia turncoat) (), "was a ‘death sentence’ – an order to his men to assassinate them…" () Riina had a lot to say when he was sentenced in a courtroom in Reggio Calabria. His musings covered the gambit from the insane to the ridiculous:

 

"No serious government gears its actions according to threats and red herrings form a recognized chief of organized crime’ said Riina when talking about the turncoats that had testified against him. He also had something to say about the people that were prosecuting him: "They are Communists who are pursuing certain aims’, I think the government should defend itself from the attacks of the Communists." In addition, not to leave any stone uncovered he went after the press: "Journalists have got to write that the law on ‘pentiti’ has got to be abolished because they are paid and manipulated and do what they are told. They are paid to invent things."

 

 

 

All of his ranting and raving didn’t help him a bit. Riina was given a heavy sentence for his complicity in murder and his failure to testify relative to some of his playmates. He was given twelve life sentences and at the rate he is going will not get out of jail until 3009. However, it isn’t exactly the same good life that he led in Sicily, Riina was sentenced to permanent solitary confinement. The deal in Italy has become, if you don’t testify against your former associates (become a Pentiti or turncoat) you serve whatever time you are sentenced to in solitary. That’s a heavy sentence in anybody’s book, Riina’s sentence works out be being sentenced to a millennium or so in the slammer and not seeing the outside world. I would probably go bonkers in about two centuries of that.

 

"The Andreotti trial promises high drama and dark humor. Among the most stunning accusations is that Andreotti, as foreign minister in the late 1980s, met with Salvatore Riina, the notorious head of the Cupola, or Mafia ruling commission. The encounter is alleged to have occurred in 1987 during the height of the Falcone "maxi-trials," when hundreds of Mafiosi and their associates were tried en masse. According to one witness, Andreotti and political associate Salvagtore Lima were seated on a couch in a private house. When Riina entered, Andreotti and Lima stood, accepted Riina’s greeting of an embrace and a kiss on each check. The traditional sign of respect." ()

 

Another friend of Andreotti was the nefarious Michele Sindona, a prominent Sicilian banker who financed both the Christian Democratic Party and the Vatican. When he wasn’t busy with those pursuits, he was also busily laundering money for the Mafia. Moreover, it was Sindona who financed Andreotti, and he was not above using blackmail, political influence and even threats of violence to have his way. When his banking empire started to fall apart and he had been indicted in both the United States and in Italy, Sindona was still pushing his friend Andreotti to have the Government bail out his bank. Andreotti, ever the astute politician, sensed that Sindona was becoming a little assertive and could get dangerous.

 

Fortunately for Andreotti, soon thereafter Sindona died of natural causes, "poisoned by his own coffee laced with cyanide inside a maximum security prison where he was serving a life sentence for the murder of the magistrate, Giorgio Ambrosoli, who exposed his financial dealings." () As an aside, Abrosoli was a reasonably pretty bright guy, and he recorded all of his conversations. Many of these tapes were played after his death, and substantial number of them fingered Andreotti as the one that had given the order to have him killed:

 

"The Sindona Affair showed clearly how porous the boundary had become between the legal and the illegal worlds, and Mafia business was booming as never before. Palermo had replaced the French Connection of Marseilles as the principal channel of heroin into the U.S. In 1974, there were only eight deaths by drug overdose in all of Italy. A decade later, there were some 250,000-heroin addicts in the country, and the deaths had reached almost 400 a year. As investigators in Sicily turned up more and more data on the drug trade, Cost Nostra responded by killing police officers, prosecutors and even politicians. In 1981, Palermo witnessed the outbreak of the most vicious Mafia war in its history. A new dominant group with the Mafia, headed by Salvatore ("Tot") Riina, of Corleone, killed off the traditional bosses of Palermo and hunted and exterminated hundreds of their associates, friends and relations." ()

The banker for this diverse group was the elegant Roberto Calvi, an associate of Sindona and president of Banco Ambrosiano. Sindona taught Calvi everything he knew, and it wasn’t long before that Roberto was up to his eyeballs in laundering money form the Italian Mafia’s heroin trade. One of the institutions he represented was known as The Institute for Religious Works, but it was also called the Vatican Bank and was what it sounded like, the Vatican’s bank. In addition, there was also a strange Masonic Lodge called P2 in which everybody who was anybody in Italy seemed to be a member.

 

It wasn’t too much later that Calvi apparently either had misused or misplaced some substantial money belonging to the Vatican bank (maybe the trifling sum of $154 million) and an even larger amount belonging to the Mafia. Not too awfully long thereafter, Calvi was found dangling from a piece of scaffolding beneath Blackfriars Bridge in London on the morning of June 18, 1982. Tommaso Buscetta testified in court that, "Calvi was killed out of revenge, he was given Mafia money to recycle, and he made poor use of it." His bank, Banco Ambrosiano, was Italy’s largest private bank when it collapsed, and when the score was tallied by the accountants, over $1 billion was missing or – maybe – just misplaced.

 

In spite of his nefarious activities, Calvi had many upstanding friends. One of them was a real estate developer by the name of Flavio Carboni. As Banco Ambrosiano was sinking into the sea for the final time, Calvi called Carboni into his office and gratuitously presented him the last of the bank’s money, almost $19 million. Carboni was overjoyed with his sudden prosperity and asked Calvi if he could do anything for him in return. Calvi indicated he would like Carboni to arrange for his escape to London, as he had just been indicted and was not interested in spending the rest of life in jail. Carboni, still excited over his new found wealth immediately agreed and was instrumental in all facets of Calvi’s flight to London.

 

Calvi died on June 18, 1982. On April 17, 1997, Carboni, the man who had been gifted $19 million by Calvi, was charged with being his murderer. "Carboni is not alleged to have done the deed himself, but rather to have lured Calvi to London and ensured he was delivered into the hands of his killers. Most of the evidence goes over the odd behavior of Carboni when he was in London, supposedly helping Calvi find a better place to stay."()

 

Lucio Gelli was the Grandmaster of the P2 Masonic Lodge, which ultimately became known as Propaganda Due Masonic Lodge. Gelli was a close associate of Calvi’s, and just as was the case with Carboni, he had been gifted with almost $200 million in cash from Calvi’s bank. Without too much hesitation, Gelli was indicted in the Banco Ambrosiano matter as a money launderer for some of the most famous names in Italy. For his efforts, he was sentenced to 12 years in jail.

 

There were 1,000 members of the P2 Lodge of which he was Grandmaster, and they included many of the most famous politicians, businessmen and military officers of the country. "Investigations into P2 activities have repeatedly delved into unproved allegations that the lodge conspired with right-wing extremists and the Mafia to destabilize the government through bombings and violence." () Rather than go to jail, Gelli fled to the French Rivera resort of Cannes, where he was eventually nabbed by French police. He was put into a jail hospital, where he tried to kill himself with his glasses. When police went to Gelli’s home in Cannes, they found 630 pounds of gold bars valued at $1.7 million hidden in flowerpots. Gelli’s wife had an interesting explanation for the gold-filled pots, saying, "the gold being magnetically charged aids substantially in plant growth, and her husband was a first class botanist," she told the police.

 

The people of Italy were always aware that if the chips were really down, they could always turn to the powerful Carabinieri. "The Carabinieri are an independent police force founded by King Vittorio Emmanuel I in 1814, but remained under the supervision of the defense ministry." () In their almost two centuries of existence, the Carabinieri had gained a sterling reputation for honesty and objectivity in performing independent police investigative work. Previously the group had been instrumental in helping to bring to justice a number of senior Mafia Dons. The people believed that, Carabinieri’s political independence was a valuable ingredient because of the massive Mafia infiltration of the Italian Government. The entire matter of dealing with the Mafia was in the process of being turned over to this untouchable paramilitary police force with over 100,000 members when the police suddenly arrested its chief, General Francesco Felfino on charges of kidnapping and extortion.

 

It seems that the highly regarded General had arranged for the kidnapping of Italian businessman, Giuseppe Soffiantini who had been abducted substantially earlier. General Delfino, an old friend of the family told the grieving relatives that an informer had told him that if a certain amount of money was paid, the businessman would be freed. The money was given to the General to make the deal, Soffiantini was freed and within days the money was found in General Delfino’s apartment. Obviously he had set the entire rouse up from the very beginning. To make matters worse, "Two other Carabinieri generals, including the force commander, are also under investigation for charges of misconduct." () The Italian people were highly deflated and were obligated to go back to step one in their crusade against the Mafia.

 

Archbishop Paul Marcinkus was the person in charge of the Instituto per le Opere di Religione; better known as the Vatican Bank during the time that Calvi was plundering Banco Ambrosiano. Through the Archbishop’s good offices, the Vatican Bank become a shareholder in Banco Ambrosiano, and prosecutors in Rome indicated that Marcinkus was up to his eyeballs in Calvi’s diversion of $1.3 billion from Banco Ambrosia to ten dummy Panamanian companies. They indicated that these companies could even be nominees of the Vatican itself:

 

"While no evidence of personal gain has ever been alleged, authorities charge that Marcinkus allowed the Vatican Bank to be used by Calvi for his schemes. The Vatican has steadfastly denied responsibility in the Ambrosiano affair. Nonetheless, and against Marcinkus’ advice, the Vatican agreed in 1984 to pay $244 million to the bank’s creditors as a goodwill gesture. At issue is whether the Vatican Bank owned the dummy companies and thus was involved in the fraud…The arrest warrant against Marcinkus could lead to a complex standoff between the Vatican and the Italian government. Italian officials cannot enter the Vatican to serve the arrest warrant, much less retrieve their man. Since the Lateran Treaty of 1929, Italy has recognized the 108.7–acre Vatican as a sovereign state."

The Archbishop has never set his feet out of the Vatican since that day, and the Church is peculiarly unwilling to give him up.

 

Giovanni Brusca was arrested four years after Giovanni Falcone (), the anti-mob judge, was blown away by a bomb along with his wife and several bodyguards. Brusca is reputed to be the highest-ranking Mafia figure in the country. Falcone was a judge who became famous for being extremely tough on the Mafia, and Brusca had every reason to fear the worst if he were the one dispensing justice. Brusca made every effort to see that Falcone would not be sitting in his court, but rather would be permanently retired. On a pleasant Spring day, Falcone was traveling with his wife and three bodyguards in their armor-plated car when "a massive bomb planted in a storm drain under the highway outside Palermo, the Sicilian capital, exploded as his motorcade passed. Brusca is accused of having pushed the remote-control button that set off the bomb in one of the Mafia’s worst outrages." () It is worth noting that only two months before Falcone was blown away, his judicial associate, Paolo Borsellino along with five bodyguards, was also blown up in his car under very similar circumstances.

 

Brusca, then 36 had already been rumored to have killed 40 people broke the mold. He went on a tear when his good friend Toto Riina was arrested in 1993 by organizing attacks on Churches and museums in Rome, Florence and Milan. And just for good measure, to show what an upstanding guy he was, Brusca did the almost unthinkable. "Brusca’s cold-bloodedness became even more clear when he kidnapped the 11-year-old son of a Mafioso who had collaborated with the legal system. The boy was held captive for more than two years, and Brusca had him strangled and his body dissolved in acid because his father refused to retract his accusations against the mafia." () However, this little dear began to sing like a canary to the Italian police in June of 1996. We hope that Brusca keeps in mind what happened to his good friend, Francesco Marino Mannoia who saw his mother, his sister and his aunt summarily murdered when he coped a plea.

 

In this case, Bernardo Provenzano was tried in 1999, in absensia for the crime because he had been on the lam for numerous years. Bernardo also had been made "boss of all bosses" after Salvatore "Toto" Riina was caught in 1993. However, he was made "boss of all bosses" in absensia as well, having been in hiding at that point for 33 years. In spite of the fact that he couldn’t be brought to trial, police have let it be known that he regularly corresponds with his family. "A pack of letters from Provenzano’s wife and sons – which dealt with everything from the family laundry business to how to wash socks – were found in a house near Palermo where police arrested another top Mafioso two weeks ago." () Apparently, being in absensia in Italy means something similar to, being alive and well and living happily in Palermo.

 

However, Provenzano’s lieutenant, Benedetto Spera, was not quite as lucky. He had also been convicted in absentia, along with Provenzano of murdering several anti-Mafia prosecutors. Nevertheless, in January of 2001, police in Palermo arrested finally Spera who had been on the run for over nine years and by this time was suffering from prostate cancer. Showing that the Mafia in Italy has no prejudice when they siphoned money, arrested along with Spera was Vincenzo Di Noto, a highly regarded Italian doctor who had become world famous because of some of his highly acclaimed medical theories. Apparently, Dr. Di Noto, who once was in charge of Sicily’s largest hospital, had been on the Mafia payroll for decades.

 

Another Italian Mafia leader, Vito Palazzolo who was a magician at laundering money, left Italy at the very last minute before his indictment came down and found fame and fortune in South Africa. Eventually, the Italian government discovered where Vito had vanished to and formally requested the South African Government to send him home for trial. However, the ever friendly South African’s replied that membership in the Mafia is not a crime where they come from and blatantly refused. However, it may be that they really didn’t know whom they were dealing with. Palazzolo is known all over the globe, he is wanted by the American FBI for the "Pizza Connection" case which involved dealings in heroin along with the fact that he has been on Interpol’s most wanted list for years. Palazzolo who got around a lot in his younger days also served time in Switzerland for money laundering. Authorities also claim that Palazzolo has substantial interests in Angolan diamond concessions.

 

However, with all of his worldly interests, it is nice to know that Vito still has plenty of time for his friends. Whenever any of Italy’s senior Mafia members need to get away from the Italian "heat" for a while, they are almost always found at Vito’s farm in Capetown. Such innocents as Giovanni Bonomo, Giuseppe Galardi, and Mariano Tullio Troia have all been recent houseguests of the Don. One of the reasons that Mafia influence in South Africa has been able to flourish is the ineptitude of their police. It seems that word always accidentally leaks out when a Mafia member is about to be taken into custody. In addition, the Director of the intelligence unit that overseas the investigation of Mafia influences in South Africa was recently indicted on 46 charges of fraud and theft. There is no question that the Italian Mafia has found a fertile breeding ground in South Africa in which to set up operations, and luckily for them apparently there isn’t any law against it.

 

The name that appears next in our Italian rogues gallery is silent Salvatore Lima. He became known as "Silent Sal" because he never spoke in public. When time came to deliver votes in Sicily for whomever he favored, Silent Sal would always deliver. He started out as a political hack, but had substantial support from family members who were in charge of the Mafia in Palermo. Several good things happened to Lima almost simultaneously, the first of which was that he became the Mayor of Palermo, and the second and more important of which was that he became Andreotti’s guy in Sicily. During that time, there was an investigation into the Sicilian Mafia, and in the final report of the Italian Parliament’s anti-Mafia commission statement, Lima was mentioned 149 times and was described as one of the pillars of Mafia power in Palermo.

 

While one would have thought this could hurt his political career, it turned out this was not the case. At Andreotti’s invitation, Lima came to Rome in 1968 and switched factions within the Christian Democratic Party to be closer to Andreotti. Lima continued to deliver the populous Sicilian electorate for his friend, and in 1972, he was rewarded by the new Prime Minister with a cabinet post. In 1974, Lima was named the head of the Ministry of the Budget, and upon hearing this, many people resigned from the Ministry, including, among others, the distinguished economist Paolo Sylos Labini. Soon thereafter, two of Lima’s cousins, Nino and Ignazio Salvo, were convicted of being Mafia members, but the worst was yet to come.

 

When Lima was in Sicily, he was always chauffeured around in their bulletproof car. When Andreotti’s Government fell, Lima was assassinated, but at that point, no one could figure out why. Fortunately for the rest of us, the vociferous Buscetta decided to tell the whole story: "Salo Lima was, in fact the politician to whom Cosa Nostra turned most often to resolve problems for the organization, whose solution lay in Rome." That testimony seemed to open the floodgates, and a number of other witnesses then testified that Lima had been ordered to "fix" the appeal of the maxi-trial with Italy’s Supreme Court and had been murdered because he failed to do so.

 

Another viewpoint was that Andreotti had been sent a message by the Mafia when they killed Lima, telling the Prime Minister that they were now aware that they could no longer count on his assistance. Because of the offensive being conducted by prosecutors against Andreotti, his political power disintegrated, and the Mafia was not to be denied protection.

 

Then there was Benedetto Craxi, the former Prime Minister of Italy who led the country from 1983 to 1987. Craxi died in January 2000 in exile, mainly because he faced over 100-years in jail for his misdeeds (). Just to give you an idea of what the Italian people think of Craxi, there was a poll taken by RAI Radio, which asked, who was the most evil Italian to have ever lived. He beat out "Mafia top cat, Salvatore Riina, who is serving nine life terms in prison for a series of killings. The best that he (Riina) could manage was third place. And not the "Monster of Florence", Pietro Pacciani, jailed for 14 murders. He was fourth". () Craxi had presided over a graft-riddled Italian Government and capped it off with what was called the Berlusconi affair.

 

Silvio Berlusconi was a media tycoon and the head of Fortza Italia a political organization. He ran and was elected to office by running a strong anticorruption campaign, which was now the "in" thing to do in Italian politics. Naturally, Berlusconi won the election and became Italy’s prime minister but he sorely disappointed his constituents when he was ultimately convicted of paying Craxi $12 million through an offshore trust. For his troubles, Berlusconi received a sentence of two-years and four-months and a $5.6 million fine. Former Prime Minister Craxi, by this time had been on the lam for a while and was living in Tunisia. Considering the fact that Tunisia at that time had no extradition treaties with Italy, he was sentenced by proxy and received a sentence of four years in jail and an $11.2 million fine.

 

Tunisia had a rather strange relationship with Italy and relied on heavily on them for foreign aid. It would have seemed that in spite of no formal extradition treaties, if Italy had really wanted Craxi, they could have tied their request to additional foreign aid. Obviously there was more to that story than met the eye. As an example of what Tunisia could do if they really wanted to, when Tunisian illegal immigrants started overrunning Italy, both governments sat down and worked out a deal. Italy would give Tunisia $90 million in aid and would simultaneously deport a substantial number of Tunisians that had been arrested for illegally entering the country.

 

The first segment, so to speak would be 3,000 that had been caught that month. This agreement was signed on August 8, 1998, at which point had already been luxuriously ensconced in Tunisia for any number of years. One would wonder why Italy’s most notorious escaped criminal had not been part of the bargaining session. When asked about the reason for leaving Craxi off the bargaining table, Ben Mustapha, chief negotiator for Tunisia during the negotiations said, "He and Lamberto Dino (his Italian counterpart) did not discuss the possible extradition of former Italian prime minister and head of the Socialist Party Bettino Craxi, sentenced to 23 years on corruption charges." One can only wonder why, but this is Italy and many things remain mysterious.

 

Berlusconi had been previously convicted and sentenced for bribing tax collectors and in another case was convicted of fraud. It is interesting to note that, during the time Craxi was in office, he was thought of as an honest man. On the other hand, politics is a fickle business, and things soon started to slide downhill when one of Craxi’s political cronies and best friend, Mario Chiesa, was charged with stealing all the money from the biggest orphanage in Milan. Investigators soon found a trial leading from Mr. Chiesa right to the top of the Italian Government, and guess who, his best friend, Mr. Craxi.

 

The Daily Telegraph had to say about the matter, "What few realized at the time was that Craxi and his party had adopted the Christian Democrat habit of taking rake-off’s from public works contracts, often surpassing their predecessors in brazenness and greed…. The so-called "clean hands" investigation revealed evidence that Craxi and other leading politicians had been involved in bribe taking over many years in exchange for favors and public works contracts. The investigation transformed the Italian political landscape. When Craxi ventured on the streets of Rome or Milan, he found himself being manhandled by angry mobs who spat at him and pelted him with coins."

 

Historically, another factor in the non-diminution of Mafia power has been the reluctance of the Roman Catholic Church to speak out in on the subject in a major way. However, a notable exception to this statement was the speech by Pope John Paul II in May 1993 in Agrigento, Sicily. One of the reasons the Church has been hesitant about discussing this cancer may be that Mafia families are substantial donators to the Church. With overall donations going south, they are not excited about giving up this source of revenue. There seems to be a change in the offing, but it is too early to tell.

 

As far as the elimination of Mafia influence on Italy, it appears that the church has little to fear. In December of 2000, Antonio Ingroai, who is a strong anti-Mafia judge located in Palermo, a former hotbed of their activities said that, "the Mafia now takes a more silent and invisible line, and fear is rooted among local people who still have to live face to face with Mafia power." On February 10, 2001, it was reported by Reuters that Italian police had arrested 31 suspected Mafiosi on charges ranging from drug trafficking to extortion, bombings and murder. However, that is old news, Reuters quoted a little know Italian Government report had been quietly released only four months earlier which stated that mafia related activity accounted for as much as 15 percent of Italy’s entire economic output, or about $120 billion. As the saying used to go, a billion here and a billion there and soon you are talking about real money.

 

Just when the people of Italy were saying that things couldn’t get any worse, a major ethnic conflict broke out in Yugoslavia. As a direct result of this warfare, numerous people became displaced and many of them fled to safer border. Italy has a massive, mostly indefensible coastline, which has become Europe’s most porous entry point for illegal refugees. The Italian Mafia having seen a major drop off in recruitment due to the people’s horror when the scope and nature of their activities finally was unraveled saw this as an excellent time to beef up their non-commissioned officer ranks. The Albanians have historically been among the nastiest criminals on earth. Once ensconced in Italy, they stopped taking orders from anyone and have since, usurped Mafia influence in prostitution, drugs, and petty crime in Milan. Their influence is rapidly spreading throughout Italy as no less than 300 new potential mercenaries illegally arrive in that city each and every day. The Mayor of Milan, Gabriele Albertina said, "Milan has become the center of illegal immigration in Italy if not in Europe."

 

Another neighbor that borders Italy is a country that was part of Yugoslavia until recently. It is called Montenegro. Italian Mafia controlled groups in Montenegro have surreptitiously gone into the cigarette exporting business. They have one customer, the Italian Mafia, and the only thing that they have to do is get the cigarettes into Italy without duty or sales tax. These contraband cigarettes can be sold for a substantial discount because of the fact that these taxes makeup such a high percentage of the total price. However, the porous Italian borders and Mafia ingenuity have made short shrift of these problems and Montenegrin cigarettes have flooded the Italian market to a degree where Italian tax collection estimates have gone totally askew. Italian has told Montenegro in no uncertain terms that they will no longer tolerate these illegal transshipments. "The Montenegro government, however, notes that southern Italy has been plagued by the mafia for over 100 years and objects that it cannot wipe out smuggling overnight." () However, Montenegro has a rather small economy and the hard dollar sales of cigarettes to the Italians are, for the moment at least, putting bread on the table.

 

Hadrian’s Wall

 

Let us march back in time to when Rome was proud, in control and on the march. The Roman Army, the best and most disciplined in ancient history, and the Roman maniac who led them to the edge of the world was Hadrian. He was Roman, but that was a misnomer because he was really Spanish, but a hairy Spaniard nicknamed "Graeculus" (the Greekling), perhaps because he of some Greek in his otherwise Roman background (the Spaniards of today are a far different breed from Roman times, since the Vandals, Goths and so many other marauding barbarians who claimed Spain during the Dark Ages had yet to arrive).

 

Hadrian was marching though England, leaving his thirteen-year old wife Sabina to take care of the home. Sabina was Trajan’s niece, the preceding Emperor of Rome, and she came to really despise him at an early time in their relationship. This was probably because Hadrian liked young boys even better than young girls. His particular favorite was Antinous, who was the same age as his wife and caused Hadrian substantial anguish when he drowned on an excursion up the Nile. Hadrian erected statutes, cities and monuments to his memory and deified him. He never missed a beat, though, and the army was the place he found whatever satisfaction could be garnered from life after that. It seemed to be alright with Hadrian and Sabina, since she seemed to like women more than men, and historians of the day indicate she was certainly up to a perversion or two in her own right.

 

However, in an early architectural triumph, Hadrian built a temple in the honor of Matidia, who was Sabina’s mother, and if it were not for his friendship with young men, she certainly would have been on his hit list. Hadrian led an active life, and one of his crowning achievements was the rebuilding of Jerusalem that had been destroy by one of Hadrian predecessors, Titus, when he defeated the Jewish rebellion. At first, the Jews rejoiced to see a marvelous new city being built by the emperor, only to have second thoughts when he renamed it Aelia Capitolina and bared all Jews from entry. As if that hadn’t been enough, he promptly followed up this order with one banning circumcision. The Jews who were into self-mutilation were quite annoyed at this turn of events, and to this day Hadrians name is an anathema.

 

Hadrian had a tendency to be argumentative, and he didn’t like to be shown up in a debate. In a dialog with the philosopher Favorinus, although Hadrian had argued an absolutely untenable position, Favorinus capitulated. The philosopher’s friends were furious at his surrender, but his rejoinder was the best philosophy of all, "You advise me badly, friends, since you do not permit me to believe that he who commands thirty legions is the most learned of all."

 

By this time, he had enough of barbarians coming across the border to pillage; burn and rape, and he decided he had to figure out a way to keep them out of his territory (which he believed to encompass the known universe) forever. He arrived in England late in the Spring, and he thought the countryside to be marvelous and even recommended it to his generals as a place to vacation. Everything was green, and the only thing he found to be somewhat disconcerting was that the land seemed to be rather sparsely populated, considering its great beauty. Everyone concurred with the Emperor, which was quite normal in view of the fact beheading was the only popular alternative for dissent. One of Hadrian’s generals, in an effort to please his boss, went so far as to say that a great tourist mecca could be created on this land and much wealth could be garnered for the royal coffers by charging a substantial fee for admission. All that had to be done was insure the pesky Scottish tribes would not come down to this playground and start killing people.

 

Hadrian was ecstatic, and he began work on a gigantic 73-mile long wall, over 10-feet wide and 12-feet high, complete with three observation towers every mile and a large ditch on the Scottish side, where the barbarians lived. Hadrian’s plans proved somewhat too grandiose, but within certain limitations, the wall was hastily constructed to get everything ready for the tourist season, which was rapidly approaching. Small villages were built near the observation towers to house the tourists, and attractions were constructed to lure them to the property.

 

History tells us that the first season was a wash out because just as the construction ended in early fall, the weather turned frightfully cold and rains soon swept the region, followed by foul weather, snow, sleet and ice storms. The land was paralyzed until late the next spring when the weather turned slightly more clement. Hadrian was in despair, but he predicted that, since the land was so green, the season must be more kind than what had just been endured and the next holiday season would be a major success. Sadly, one season passed to the next, and the weather continued to remain abominable. Roman soldiers were belatedly asked to poll the population relative to historic weather trends, and they were told that the weather had always been this bad as long as anyone could remember; also, they thought the Romans had built the walls to keep them in, as the primary occupation for centuries in the region had been emigration.

 

The Centurions then asked about the beautiful shade of green that surrounded everything and were advised that this was due to a cold weather fungus brought into the area by migrating Artic Reindeer. The inhabitants informed the Romans they had been trying to get rid of the fungus for years, because it had destroyed all of the plants in the region. Things were so bad that many Brits had recently been volunteering to become gladiators, which was usually something didn’t volunteer to do. When asked about this strange lemming-like response to adversity, these denizens of the British Isles simply stated that it would be nice to be killed and be placed in the warm ground around Rome, rather than England’s all-weather permafrost.

 

The Romans, feeling humiliated by their stupidity, retreated and let the Scottish barbarians take over the landscape. Roman Generals were universally afraid to tell Hadrian that he was an idiot, so they rerouted gold tithings from all over the Empire and told him it was from the English tourist business that was thriving. Hadrian was by this time was well into wall building, and shockingly, he even erected a wooden wall that traversed the entire area between the Danube and Rhine rivers.

 

This was something that Hadrian firmly believed would stop the seemingly relentless march of the Huns, a very capable tribe of horsemen who were visibly salivating over the Roman Territory. Hadrian had to destroy the forests of several countries in order to build his fabled wooden bridge. The day after the holiday called by Hadrian to celebrate this wall’s successful completion, a Hun enlisted man placed a burning twig next to the structure in order to roast a pig, and a strong wind caused the flames to set fire to the wall. This rapidly fanned the flames down the structure’s entire length, burning most of it to the ground.

 

Rome eventually gave up the concept of building walls and chose natural barriers, such as rivers and mountain ranges. This strategy was as successful as Hadrian’s was a failure, and it allowed the Roman Empire to deflect most invading tribes for several hundred years.

 

The Appian Way

Very early on, Rome realized that its destiny was to rule the civilized world. With that in mind, the powers that ruled Rome determined that in order to be successful, they would have be able to quickly transport their highly trained, but limited numbers of troops from here to there. At it’s meeting in 312 B.C., the Roman Senate argued that roads should be built to points of potential military conquest. The ensuing debate ran something like this: "Why do we need roads? People like Alexander the Great, who is tearing things up over in Persia, didn’t build any roads, and he seems to be doing just great!" Besides, won’t they realize that we’re going to conquer them when they see us building a road in their neighborhood?" Or like this: "Why don’t we just buy a fleet of elephants? The army can travel the way Hannibal did, making its own roads as it goes. Nah, there’s no place to stable an elephant herd in Rome. Anyway, who besides you could afford to feed them, Gluteus Maximus?"

 

Another idea that had some merit was to build a lot of ships and only attack countries that had ports (something like what the Vikings would do a thousand years later. This motion was soundly trounced because it would have eliminated most of central Europe, and besides, no one in the Senate had any thoughts of traversing any pond larger than the Mediterranean. If the God Jupiter had wanted the Romans to go sailing around the planet, he certainly would have made Rome a port. Everyone thought this addressed the issue succinctly, but not before a vote was taken and a small version of the Appian Way was ordered built as a test model.

 

The original experiment would consist of a segment running 140 miles from Rome to Capua. The Appian Way was originally known as the Regina Viarum, or the "Queen of all Roads." The legislator who had proposed the initiative was Appius Claudius Caecus, and in typical Roman fashion, he named it The Appian Way after his first name. Incidentally, the road going from Rome south was called the Appian Way, the road constructed around that same time going north was called Flaminian Way.

 

The finished road stretched 350 miles from Rome to the southern most point in mainland Italy, then called Brundisium. The road became a work in progress, and slaves labored fiercely over its construction for the next two centuries. The road was uniform in width, exactly 20 feet across, the distance that the Roman architects had estimated would be the optimum space necessary for two luxury chariots to be able to comfortably pass each other from opposite directions traveling at posted speed limits. The other yardstick that was also taken into consideration was how wide the road needed to be to allow six soldiers carrying full equipment to march in one direction.

 

Constructed alongside of the road were sidewalks, one on either side the roadway and once again the Roman engineers took exact measurements which allowed them to come to the conclusion that two people heading in opposite directions could pass each other comfortably on a four-foot wide structure. Naturally, horse-changing stations were constructed along the way every ten miles or so, and all of the necessary accoutrements for comfortable travel, such as taverns, shops, rooms, Roman latrines and camp followers, were put in place. There were inns (mansions), which would provide accommodations and meals similar to our motels, and these were located at approximately 25-mile intervals. The Pony Express in the early American West was patterned after the Appian Way in that it had horse changing stations and camp followers (but no paved roads).

 

"The principles of firm road construction arose because unmetalled paths and tracks could not withstand passage of large number of horses, carts and infantry. Such routes soon disintegrated, particularly in wet weather, into deep mud, which seriously impeded a unit’s movements. Accurate staff movement calculations could therefore not be made, and campaign planning was impeded. Firm, paved roads, however, resolved these problems and guaranteed movement of very heavy traffic. As a result, armies could progress twenty-five miles a day, even in inclement weather conditions, rapidly reaching distant areas in which unrest had been reported. Knowledge of the army’s ability to achieve this was itself often a major deterrent to the development of hostilities."

Anyone who has walked the Appian Way knows it could not have been any fun to travel this road by either foot or chariot, but it was certainly a lot better than the alternative. The road was paved for the entire distance with unequal sized cobblestones that were not smoothed or held in place with mortar. There was rock down to a substantial depth, which is the reason for its longevity; but the cracks between the cobblestones soon became depressed relative to the roadway, and the walk or ride became a real stomach churner. Picture trying to hit the cobblestones square in the middle if you were a soldier marching with full gear. The soldiers of that time must have suffered a lot of sprained ankles and bruised knees.

 

So the foot soldiers that were unlucky enough to not to get a chariot ride to the front had to go by foot from Rome to Brundisium, where they boarded ships taking them to the eastern part of the Roman Empire. This foot-trek took about 20 days and the men arrived with blisters and sore backs and needing a little R&R before being able to pillage and plunder the proper Roman way. In the meantime, the soldiers had another job as well, because if they were not on a military mission, they became a road repair crew. While slaves were used for the most part in the road’s original construction, maintenance was a job for the army, which was well equipped to handle it.

 

However, the road wasn’t just for the army. Merchants and tourists sometimes clogged the thoroughfare, especially during the holiday season, which complicated the army’s logistics. While the army certainly had first right of passage, the Roman leaders were always throwing big parties at the Coliseum, and that required the bringing in of endless streams of animals and gladiators for the their rituals. In most cases, they would enter the Appian Way through the port at Brundisium and take the long route up from the heel of Italy. Sometimes accidents occurred that sent wild, man-eating animals scurrying from their cages. This also caused substantial delays, especially if some of the weary tourists on the road had become the animal’s dinner.

 

"Private individuals were allowed to travel by the Imperial Post (Appian Way) only if they had been issued a special permit. The seriousness with which this rule was enforced is illustrated by letters between Trajan (Emperor from A.D. 98 – 117) and Pliny. Pliny wrote from Bithynia inquiring if outdated permits could be used, as he was anxious not to hold up important dispatches. The Emperor’s response was short and curt; he stated: "It is my invariable rule to have fresh permits sent to each province before the dates are required."

When the road was available, which was most of the time, all kinds of methods of travel and numerous kinds of beasts of burden were used. There were mules, oxen donkeys, horses and at times even camels that would in turn pull carts, carriages and chariots. "Heavy loads were often moved in a slow, but sure way, on large wagons pulled by oxen or mules. A light cart drawn by one horse could cover about fifteen miles a day. Imperial messengers traveled by horse, or light carts drawn by one, two or even three horses. Larger carriages, pulled by two or more horses or mules, could cover up to seventy-five miles a day."

 

However, the Appian Way was a masterpiece of construction, for it extended in almost a straight line from Rome to Brunisium. Anything that got in the contractor’s path was summarily destroyed and carted off. Hills were flattened so the road’s grade for loaded chariots and commercial vehicles would not be to steep, either going up or down. The roadbed was elevated so that it could not be flooded, and for this reason, it was only during exceptionally bad weather that any delays relative to inclement conditions ever occurred. Bridges were built and marshes were drained as the Appian Way wended it way from central Italy to its mainland southern extremities. Moreover, maintenance was done early and often.

 

An "Appian Consul," who was usually appointed by the Emperor himself, was in charge of insuring that the road was always in tip-top shape for military purposes. In addition, the road provided a high-speed source of information from the battlefield, indicating whether the current conflict was going well or poorly for the Romans. Logistical information found the highway the fastest means of delivering the "coals to Newcastle." Thus, the road also became known as the first "information highway." Most of the information that traveled up and back on the road was military in nature, but milestones (tall, round stones) were constructed every so often on the highway, but most certainly where two or more roads came together. These milestones would give the news of the day, the directions to the villages ahead and how far away they were in Roman miles.

 

By the time the Roman Empire had reached its zenith, its point of maximum geographical expansion, 55,000 miles of primary and secondary roads had been built. Unfortunately for Rome, this marvelous system of roads worked two ways; it represented a fast way of putting down an insurrection wherever it occurred, and on the other hand, it allowed Rome’s enemies the same access when the Praetorian Guards had to retreat from indefensible positions. The road system both allowed Rome to expand dramatically, but it also hastened Rome’s collapse.

 

Early in the history of the Appian Way, it was used to subdue and bring under Rome’s control non-conforming people within the south-central parts of Italy. As these early plans for conquest expanded, the Appian Way was lengthened and soon Rome had extended its dominance to the entire southern part of the country. Just as on all roads, commerce started to gravitate to the new structure, especially in the area around Rome itself, where the Appian Way became the place to live and also to die. First of all, Roman regulations did not allow the burial of anyone within the city proper, and thus when a Roman of stature died, they usually liked to be laid to rest in a quiet spot. By the same token, they also were not interested in being totally forgotten. A nice spot on the Appian Way, below some overhanging cypress trees, was the choice of many of Rome’s most senior politicians and generals. Their above ground crypts became magnificent sights to behold, as splendid mausoleums were constructed with the intention of catching each traveler’s attention. The middle class would go through the cremation process and have an urn placed on the Appian Way, where it too would be seen by the passing throngs.

 

A short travelogue is in order at this point:

 

"The most historic and scenic stretch (of the road) is just south of the city. From the Roman Forum go past the Coliseum and the Arch of Constantine. Take the road to the right. Via San Gregoria. In a few blocks, you’ll be at the Porta Caena where the Appian Way began. A mile away, past the Baths of Caracalla, is the Porta San Sebastiano. Here begins the grandeur, the history, and the scenery. The St. Sebastian Gate, an opening in the old city wall is a massive two-towered structure that looks sturdy enough to hold off an army. The wall was built by Emperor Aurelian in the 3rd Century, and a gate was constructed for the Appian Way. This gate led out of Rome. Because the monuments and archeological sites start here, many people consider this the real beginning of the Appian Way. About half a mile on, beyond a low all on the right, is a round tower covered with ivy. It is the tomb of the wife of Domitian, emperor in A.D. 81."

"Just where the road makes a turn to the left is a small building with a plain front, the church of Domine Quo Vadis where St. Peter, fleeing from Rome, is said to have seen a vision of Christ and asked him "Lord, where are you going?" Christ replied: "I go to Rome to be crucified again." This strengthened Peter, and he returned to Rome, where he laid the foundations of the Christian church and was martyred by Nero. Another kilometer takes you to the Catacombs of St. Callistus, where early Christians buried their dead. You get a chill, knowing that almost 2,000 years ago worshipers walked in these eerie tunnels. Just beyond the Catacombs of St. Sebastian are the remains of the best-preserved Roman circus in the world, built in the 4th Century by the Emperor Maxentius."

"Today it stands silent, but in ancient times charioteers whipped their horses down the 500-yard straightway as 18,000 spectators screamed them on..…You stroll a past high wall of stone or poplar or cypress edging the estates….At the end of the long flower-lined drives are the houses: sedate, imposing mansions that fit the classical surroundings. On the way is the tomb of Cecilia Metella, bordered by homes and meadows and towering pines of Rome. A rounded structure several stories high, with a battlemented crown, it is crumbling because throughout its 2,000 years it has been left to the weather and vandals."

The scene is surreal today, with the overhanging trees forming an arch over the road and magnificent buildings and monuments abutting either side. Can we picture victorious Roman soldiers returning home from battle and enjoying what they had been fighting for. This indeed exemplified the glory that was Rome.

 

Finally, the Appian Way has granted a major facelift, and the modern bureaucrats say that it will be restored to its former magnificence. We are not so sanguine, based on the eternal bickering that has gone on between corrupt bureaucrats and wealthy landowners for the last several hundred years. Over time, the elements and robbers have taken their toll on the glory of the Appian Way. Many of the cobblestones that made up the roadbed were dug up in the early 18th Century and used for the streets of downtown Rome. The magnificent villas and mausoleums have been thoroughly pillaged over the years, and much of their brilliance has been tarnished.

 

Part of the road has been paved over with asphalt, and speeding traffic and toxic fumes are taking a major toll in polluting the road and surrounding environs. Traffic has also lent a hand in destroying both the Christian and Jewish Catacombs that line the road and are over two thousand years old. The Appian Way is also traversed by a Superhighway that cuts directly through the road at one of it’s most critical points. Substantial talk about an underpass to avoid this desecration never really got off the ground.

 

Parts the road have been used as a dump, and because maintenance of the road is negligible, garbage, tires and other wreckage have become a part of the historic landscape. However, in spite of that, many of the buildings that had been constructed of marble along the Appian Way , have remained in good condition, even through World War II. More recently, even those monuments have been cut up and crated off in exchange for a few lira. "Stolen are not just small decorative pieces, such as heads, statues, boundary markers, altars – but also columns, inscribed stones, cornices and friezes that, for their dimensions and weight, certainly required the use of cranes and heavy-duty vehicles. Today there is less of a collective conscience to respect our cultural patrimony....Today everyone wants a piece of marble in his villa." ()

 

"All the roads they built, including minor ones, would encircle the Earth ten times, and many of these lasted without repair for 1,000 years." ()

Over the years, restoration of the highway has been strongly urged by many political and religious leaders, and work was even initiated on several occasions. For a time, this made an impact, but everything has gone downhill since. Most recently, living on the Appian Way near Rome became most fashionable, and a number of famous actors and artists built residences along the road. Thankfully, this is no longer allowed, but the damage had been done.

 

It is about time that something is done about restoring the Appian Way to its former magnificence, but Roman projects have often been measured in centuries, rather than years. We are afraid that time may already have run out on this wonder of civilization.

 

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