Last week I have been in Palermo, the capital of Sicily.
You might have heard that in Palermo there is mafia and that mafia asks all owners of commercial activities or restaurants to pay a fee, called „pizzo“ (= „Protection fee“). Otherwise they will put fire on your shop or even kill you, as they did 1982 with merchant Pietro Grassi who wrote an open letter to his racketeers refusing to pay. („Lettera al mio caro estorsore“).
Good news is: this practice is no longer that widespread! In 2004, a group of recently graduated students wanted to open their own bar, but while they were writing their business plan they had to take into account also the expenses to pay the „pizzo“ to the local mafia. Higher costs meant to rise prices, making their customers pay indirectly to mafia as well. Frustrated by this mere idea they printed thousands of stickers saying „an entire nation that pays the pizzo is a nation without dignity“. Being called to be a person „without dignity“ in the dialect of Palermo is a huge offense. In a warm summer night, at the end of June 2004, the team and their friends attached those stickers all over Palermo. Literally everywhere. The next morning the local (and later the day also the national) news were reporting on this brave and courageous act. „Addiopizzo“ was born, a movement joined today by more than 1000 entrepreneurs and restaurant owners that refuse to pay to Mafia joined by normal citizens supporting the fight against mafia.
Surprisingly, until today, none of them ever got trouble with mafia!
Addiopizzo was very smart in achieving their goals. Instead of trying to start with recruiting merchants, they decided to start first with collecting the signature of 3.500 citizens that committed to buy from mafia-free Shops or eat in mafia-free restaurants. Only with this list, the potential customers, they started to contact the owners of bars, restaurants and shops and ask them if they wanted to join the movement. At that point, their major fear, to be alone and avoided by customers, was gone.
All applicants are thoroughly examined and once official members, they received a sticker to put at the windows of their shops or bars or restaurants saying that they won’t pay to mafia. This sticker today is a deterrent to mafia asking for money.
But Addiopizzo did more than that: They published the list, they continually widen the number of participants and continued to support all those owners against mafia: once a year Addiopizzo organizes a fairy where they bring together pizzo-free merchants and potential customers, means, all those Palermitans that are well aware that buying goods or eating pizza in other places means that part of the money they spend goes directly to the Mafia and supports their bloody and dirty affairs.
If you ever have the change to go to Palermo, please check out the list and buy and eat there to support those who stand agains mafia. There is also a very nice app for your smartphone, called NOMA, which contains the updated list, as well as other information about mafia.
If you are generally interested in the anti-mafia movement I strongly recommend to take the tour „PalermoNoMafia“ in English or Italian, a 3 hours tour at the very heart of Palermo by AddiopizzoTravel. The money you pay helps to support the movement. The tour guides are very professional, dismantling the folkloristic view about mafia deriving from movies like „The Godfather“, explaining you instead the much more complex reality as well as the history of the movement against mafia that became a mass-movement after the killing of the two judges Falcone and Borsellino in 1992.
You can book this basic tour via TripAdvisor / Viator here. Depending on the level of your interest, there are even more tours about Mafia and Anti-Mafia by Addiopizzotravel, you can find them here.
The German broadcast ZDF talks about Addiopizzo and the tour we took here with Chiara at Minute 7’30” for seven minutes.