Back in 1975 I was a student of crime, an aspiring crime writer and a sailor stationed on a U.S. Navy tugboat at the American nuclear submarine base at Holy Loch, Scotland.
Undecided if I wanted to go home to the USA or stay in the Navy and get stationed in Italy, I visited Naples, Italy and Palermo, Sicily before I made my decision.
Being half-Italian on my mother's side, I wanted to see where the Guardino clan came from in Sicily. And having read Mario Puzo's The Godfather several times and having seen Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather and The Godfather, Part Two films several times, I simply had to visit the Sicilian town of Corleone.
I spent a day in Corleone, a quaint and quiet town that belies its' rich history of blood, murder and organized crime. Corleone is the town where The Godfather’s fictional Vito Corleone came from, and Corleone was also the town where true-life Cosa Nostra bosses, such as Salvatore "Toto" Riina, also came from.
The San Francisco Chronicle offers a piece on today’s Corleone.
CORLEONE, Sicily (AP) — Corleone is a Sicilian medieval hill town whose bloody past began generations before "The Godfather" novels and films borrowed its name for a fictional Mafia don.
It is the birthplace of several convicted real-life Mafia bosses, among them Salvatore "Toto" Riina, the reputed "boss of bosses," who died Friday at 87 in a prison ward of a northern Italian hospital.
Corleone has witnessed recent signs of rebellion against an entrenched Mafia culture where religious pageants pay tribute to reigning mob bosses, with processions stopping outside the dons' homes.
A town square is named after two top anti-Mafia magistrates slain by Cosa Nostra bombings in 1992. Inaugurated in 2000, an anti-Mafia museum, together with the International Center for Anti-Mafia documentation, also educates visitors about the fallen heroes in the war against the Sicilian crime syndicate.
When native son Riina was arrested in 1993 in Palermo, schoolchildren ran into Corleone's streets in joy, rallying behind a banner that read "Finally" — their jubilation a reflection of a new and burgeoning resistance to the Mafia by a younger generation of Sicilians.
But the Mafia's grip on the town isn't easily removed.
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