Everyone should visit Sicily. It is a beautiful sunlit island, bursting with history, culture, lovely buildings, enchanting people and exciting food.
Unfortunately it is also a corrupt place. No-one knows exactly the extent of corruption and organised crime, although some estimates say around eighty per cent of businesses pay a pizzo or protection racket tax to the Cosa Nostra, or Mafia. That may total around $2bn annually.
There is a kick back against this. The state works hard and has driven many Mafia family bosses to live underground. The police pursue them with special aircraft and continual vigilance on all known family members. But still they exist and exert power and influence. The Adio Pizzo movement tries to organise small businesses to stand up to the Mafia, with some success.
Culture of nepotism
But more pervasive is a culture of nepotism and state corruption. There are many more people on the hospital sick lists than there are actually in hospital. Some have been dead for years, but the government still pays for them. Public posts are sometimes filled twice or three times, usually with relatives or contacts of those in power.
Drive around and you can see a lot of examples of public works half done, shoddily done, or not done at all, but all have been paid for. Especially noticeable are the signs which promise traffic slights ahead, but there are rarely actually any lights.
The public in general are fed up with the politicians and corruption. In the 2013 election fifty per cent of voters backed the anti-politics Five Stars or Fuck Off party led by Beppe Grillo, a comedian.
What you can learn from Montalbano
Get hold of the Montalbano detective novels written by Andrea Camilleri and the disc set of TV programmes of Inspector Montalbano based on the books for a great Italian view on how Sicily looks and works.