By Sebastian Modak. Photos: Alamy.
The Italian island of Sicily is famous for pristine beaches and hot summers, vineyards that blanket the slopes of the very active Mount Etna, and historical towns where a 16th-century Baroque cathedral can be found just steps away from the best meal of your life. It's also famous—or, more accurately, infamous—for being the birthplace of the Cosa Nostra, better known as the Mafia—the organized crime syndicate that over the last 150 years has spread its influence from Sicily, into the United States and beyond.
Now, as The Local reports, one Sicilian tour operator based in the western coastal city of Trapani is capitalizing on that tumultuous aspect of its history by offering Mafia-themed tours, where tourists will visit Mafia museums, the old estates of the most notorious dons, and make a stop in the town of Corleone, memorialized in Francis Ford Coppola's Godfather films. The Cosa Nostra in the region made international headlines as recently as August 2016, when the federal government ordered the dissolution of Corleone's town council due to Mafia infiltration.
Unsurprisingly, many Sicilians are not happy with the tour group, claiming that it exploits a violent history (and present) that touches many locals' lives. Maria Falcone, sister of a judge killed by the Mafia in 1992, told The Local that the itinerary is "an insult to the pain of the victims and a slap in the face to those who labour every day to eradicate the Mafia culture." Vito Damiano, mayor of Trapani, reportedly has demanded that the tour agency's website be shut down.
The tour operator, meanwhile, claims the trips are actually anti-Mafia, in the way that they raise awareness about the organization's often nefarious influence on Sicilian politics and daily life, which continues to this day, but the defense hasn't stopped people from saying it's just too soon. The "Corleone" excursion (lunch included) is priced on the agency's website at €100 ($108) and €50 ($54), for a full-day or half-day, respectively.
The Mafia tour—and its local reaction—brings to mind other tour-operated "experiences" that have angered residents for what they see as exploitation or voyeurism. From post-Katrina bus tours of New Orleans's Lower Ninth Ward to rides on abused elephants in Thailand, it's an important lesson that some so-called attractions are not exactly attractive.
This story originally appeared on Conde Nast Traveler.
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