Tuesday, 27 September 2016


When I think of the mafia, I imagine the Godfather, the Corleones, and the Cosa Nostra of Sicily. How brainwashed by a movie can I possibly be? 

Or Calabria and it's feared crime syndicate, the Ndrangheta come to mind. When Jim and I first planned this year's trip, I joked about heading into Calabria, home of the mafia. Little did I imagine that Puglia, this magical corner of Italy, had actually felt the constant invisible threat of the mafia (Sacra Corona Unita) more than other areas. Well, that is until recently.

In the 1990's, the Italian Government began confiscating mafia-owned land, a staggering 4500+ properties thus far; in 1996 a law passed by the state allowed third parties to formally acquire this confiscated land and what arose is an anti-mafia land movement. "Libera Terra Puglia" is determined to prove that wine and food production can be a key instrument for positive change.

With 25 hectares of vineyards, Libera Terra Hiso Telaray is one such vineyard. What is heartening is that this winery has had the courage to name two well known wines after mafia victims.

Renate Fonte, a councillor at Nando, was killed because she fought against illegal development in the protected area of Porto Selvaggio, one of Puglia's most beautiful Ionian Sea sites. Because of her determination, today the area remains untouched. Tragically Renate Fonte paid with her life, assassinated by the mafia.

Michael Fazio and Gaetano Manchitelli were innocent victims, caught in the crossfire of mafia hits. In their honour, the wine, Alberelli de la Santa carries a label stating, "Dedicated to the smile and youth of Michael Fazio and Gaetano Manchitelli."

Libera Terra Puglia will not bring these victims of mafia violence back, but it takes just one pebble to start an avalanche. The confiscation of mafia-held lands, the use of these lands for positive purposes and the ongoing reminders of the scourge of organized crime are all moves in the right direction. Sinistro a speranza.

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