Mafia Republic: Italy's Criminal Curse

Cosa Nostra, 'ndrangheta and camorra from 1946 to the present

In 1946, Italy became a democratic Republic and entered the family of western nations. Yet at the same time, Sicily’s Cosa Nostra, the camorra from Naples, and the mysterious ’ndrangheta from Calabria stood ready to enter their bloody prime.

Soon, Italy would become one of the world’s leading industrial economies. But while Italy grew by making scooters, cars and handbags, the mafias carved out their own routes to wealth: tobacco smuggling, construction, kidnapping and narcotics.

By the 1980s, Southern Italy was on the edge of becoming a narco-state. The scene was set for a titanic struggle against mafiosi who could no longer tolerate any obstacle to their ambitions.

Italy today still lives in the aftermath of that season of savagery. The world of the mafias has changed for good. The once great camorra clans have fragmented into feuding factions. The mighty Cosa Nostra is a shell of its former self.

But the mafias are far from dead. The long shadow of mafia history still hangs over a nation wracked by debt, political paralysis, and corruption. And just when Italy thought it had finally contained the mafia threat, it is now discovering that it harbours the most global criminal network of them all.

"Italians often complain that foreigners are obsessed by the Mafia, turning a localised problem of organised crime into a stereotype that damages the image of a whole nation. Yet as John Dickie shows in this chilling and eye-opening book, the real problem is that the stereotype is correct... A fine book."
Bill Emmott, The Times