Before we moved to Sicily for 91 days, I didn’t know that there was actually a town called Corleone. I had assumed that the name was invented by Mario Puzo, who wrote The Godfather. So I felt a thrill upon discovering that the town actually does exist, just an hour from Palermo, and that it indeed has a past strongly identified with the Mafia. It was just a matter of time before we visited. My name is Michael, after all.
One of the most controversial figures in recent Italian history is Salvatore Giuliano, who enjoyed a reputation as the Sicilian Robin Hood, stealing from the rich to give to the poor. But that’s a simplistic and overly noble description of Giuliano, who operated out of Montelepre near Palermo and was a constant thorn in the side of the government and police.
Although their presence is practically invisible to tourists, the Mafia is very much a reality for the residents of Palermo. One of the most tangible nuisances is the pizzo: the “protection fee” that Sicilian business owners are compelled to pay to the Cosa Nostra.
Exquisitely detailed ligneous benches with patterns intertwining mother of pearl and ivory rest upon the crimson marble floor. Splashes of gold in the chandelier and around the altar only serve to highlight the pure white of the rest of the oratory. A reprint of a work from Caravaggio hangs at the front of the room. (But why a reprint … ?)