Niccolò Zancan
La Stampa

Italy’s beaches are crowded with “summer sun seekers”—and mobsters, said Niccolò Zancan. Tourists won’t notice, of course. They have no idea that the Adriatic resorts they patronize on the Gargano peninsula are forced to pay tribute to the local Mafia, or that local business owners live in terror. Car chases are frequent, the sound of machine-gun fire is common, and once a horse’s head was actually hung in the main square of Peschici, “just like in the movie The Godfather.

Giuseppe Mascia, head of a local anti-mob organization, said that he and some 30 other tourism operators in the village of Vieste had tried to resist the extortion. But after several of their hotels were torched, and his own home was set on fire, he abandoned the effort. “We have already exposed ourselves to too much danger,” he said. Those who continue to resist pay with their lives. Just last year, two brothers who owned a hotel and restaurant were tortured and killed, their burned bodies dumped “a few hundred meters from their resort as a warning to others.”

So far, authorities have been powerless to break the stranglehold, leaving “a certain chill” beneath Italy’s beautiful, sunny weather.