In Italy, It’s Divided We Stand, United We War

A Camorra woman.
Charles DeLucca, our “foreign correspondent,” has offered a diverse post that addresses a variety of issues, including how much easier it is for the American Mafia to partner with other crime rings in Italy than it is for the crime rings in Italy to partner among one another. He shows the great value the Italian clans place on their local heritage and independence, and notes how very accurate the fictional show The Sopranos was in certain respects.

According to Italian police wiretaps made public about a decade ago, and the testimony of pentiti, the conversation pretty much went like this:

On a phone call from America to Naples: “Security is tight, we lost the merchandise.”

From the other side, the voice of Antonio Bardellino, the first boss of the Neapolitan Casalesi Clan, answered: “Adesso ne mandiamo il doppio con altri mezzi.”

The story is interesting because the American speaking was, in fact, the former boss of the Gambino Family, John Gotti Sr.

Member of the Di Lauro clan.
Did Gotti speak Italian? That is actually a very good question considering that many Italian-Americans do not speak any Italian at all.Old “Camorristi” who survived the Gotti-Bardellino time would explain to you that it was disappointing to encounter you “American cousins” and realize that it was us, the ones in Europe, who were obligated to speak in English. Therefore, I’m sure that the conversation between Bardellino and Gotti probably included assistance from someone bilingual.

Being of Neapolitan heritage, it is not difficult for me to understand why Gotti would decide to enter into such a partnership with Bardellino. One can argue that Gotti always rejected that he dealt drugs, to keep his Robin Hood image for “his public” – even though he was virtually surrounded by major drug dealers his entire “career”; but the Carabinieri seem to have good evidence. There is simply too much money in drugs for Mafiosi not to get into the business.

In the larger view, it is not uncommon for Italian-American uomo d'onore and their European “cousins” to interact. As we see now, the Gambino Family has very close ties with Sicily as the current leadership includes “real Sicilians,” born in Italy, with direct blood ties. What I wonder is, how much has “American culture” influenced their ways of conducting things?

Historically, we have a very interesting example of the relationship between American LCN and their European cousins.

Carmine Galante and Salvore “Toto” Riina of the Corleonsessi Family had a relationship -- a very profitable one. However, it is not common apparently for Sicilians and Neapolitans to work side by side in Europe. In America, for the Mafia, origin makes no difference; whether Calabrese, Siciliano o Napoletano; the issue is to just keep it Italian, while in Italia it is all about staying in your own region and with your own local people.

Antonio Bardellino and Tomasso Buscetta (the first Sicilian pentiti) were friends. Both liked to relax in sunny Brazil. Don Antonio also had a friendship and a strategic relationship with Tano Badalamenti, a historic and very powerful Sicilian Don. Some claim that Antonio Bardellino was first made a Sicilian uomo d´onore and later, in the early 80s, formed his own clan in Casal di Principe. Who knows. (I myself, by the way, have a good friendship with one of the Badalamenti’s nephews currently living in South America.)

Raffaele Cutolo is a camorrista who decide to create the Nouva Camorra Organizzatta. Cutolo organized a good number of northern camorra clans into one huge organization. Apparently he “rediscovered” the old initiation ritual of the 1800s of the Camorra and wanted to centralize power, creating a structure that resembled the Sicilian Cosa Nostra. He was apparently an educated person and received the nickname of ´Il Professore´.

Antonio Bardellino, first Casalesi boss.

Cutolo’s career started with his affiliation with the ’Ndrangheta; he had a relationship with one of the ‘Ndrangheta Bosses, Paolo De Stefano. We are talking of the early 1970s here, but it is interesting to note that only the American version of Cosa Nostra was able to create a commission, or “board of directors.”

On an interesting note, Raffaele Cutolo had family in America. In fact, he was related to William “Wild Bill” Cutolo, a native of Potenza, who later was executed at the time when he was Colombo underboss.

In Naples, the Camorra structure has always presented a much more flexible model, with more independence. And that’s what Cutolo wanted to fix. Of course, as is common when dealing among Naples guys, war started. I joined my Camorra Clan in 1988 when I was just 20 years old and that time, this first Camorra war had already been going on for three years.

Wikipedia clearly cites that “Camorra clan leaders from the areas around Naples, such as Carmine Alfieri of Saviano, Pasquale Galasso of Poggiomarino, Mario Fabbrocino of the Vesuvius area, the Nuvoletta clan of Marano, Antonio Bardellino from Casal di Principe (our patriarch of the "Casalesis") and Michele Zaza, known as o Pazzo or the Madman from Portici”… all of these fellows went to war with Cutolo. Almost three years it lasted, and lots of people were slaughtered. It mainly ran from 1980 to 1983.

In early 2000, the second Camorra war started. It was the “seccesionisi” war. Long story short: the Di Lauro clan and its allies went to war against northern clans called seccesionisi because they wanted to operate independently. They actually had started to move to Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca in Spain. The war took place in two countries, and in one year, more than 60 were killed. Camorra clans loyal to Di Lauro (including us) won the war against “the Spaniards.” But as you can see, there is something in Naples’ very DNA that makes us love war.

          “Another true element of that fictional [Sopranos] episode is the fact of a woman being recruited by the Naples Mafia.”

In the fictional series of the Soprano´s, when Don Antonio Soprano visits Avellino, Italy, he chats with Annalisa Zucca. She pretty much said while playing golf: “We have maintained a long war against Rome, all our men are in jail or dead….” Well, this fictional episode makes a direct reference to the infamous Camorra War between Cutolo’s Nouva Camorra Organizzata and the Nuova Famiglia (the group composed of the Alfieri, Fabbrocino, Nuvoletta, Bardellino and Zaza clans). There is no local form of Mafia in Rome or in the North of Italy.

Another true element of that fictional episode is the fact of a woman being recruited by the Naples Mafia. Tony Soprano cannot conceive a “women being the boss” but, in fact, in some rural clans this is quite common. Some women even become tremendous killers, like the girls in the infamous Pesce clan in Naples. The Pesce clan is a really small organization but they are deadly. About four women are part of their structure.

Now, Naples woman are sexy, extremely sexual and strong – and some of them have the “cazzi” to do a man’s job.

* * *

It is true that guys from Naples are perceived as crazy as mad hatters -- but the secret ways of the American and Sicilian Mafias are not the ways of the Camorra. Among Camorra it is not necessary to “hide in the shadows” -- that in fact is very Sicilian. When Gotti decided to make “a circus,” having the entire borgata show up to kiss his ring at the social club in Little Italy, where the streets are so small and narrow that men would have to park their big Caddies up on the sidewalk sometimes, it was actually (in my opinion) an issue of understanding that there are two ways to live the “the Life.”

"When people go to the circus they want to see the fucking tigers and lions, and that’s what we are," Gotti once said. To me, that is typical “Naples talk.” Again, Sicilians are in fact very different.

However, I cannot understand how former boss John Gotti Sr. allowed himself to lose some of his close people. I’m told that Eddie Lino (a close friend and skilled hit man), Frank DeCicco (his underboss) and even his personal driver got killed. Gotti lacked some napoletani in his response.

"You kill one of mine? I kill five of yours. You kill another one of mine? I will kill you ten of yours – then I will f--k your mother and kill your sister. And it is not important if you kill me -- but just remember, I will take you with me."

In August 23 20012, Gaetano Marino, a seccesioniti camorrista, was gunned down ina private resort located somewhere between Rome and Naples. He wanted, again, to separate from the Di Lauro clan. Everybody believed that the seccesionisti war was long over, but the mafia has a long, long memory.

Are you wondering if I was involved in the hit against Marino? Curiosity killed the cat.

But you never break the rules -- you stick together.

The Mafia has a long, long, long memory.


  1. I like this guy. He's relatively straight forward!

  2. I appreciate these articles. Neither group, either from Italy or here, truly understands the other and the forces that shaped them. Seeing the view from Campagna is insightful. Keep up the good work.


Post a Comment