Rose petals launched from a low-flying helicopter fluttered down from the sky over hundreds of teary-eyed friends of an alleged criminal clan boss on Thursday at a funeral in Rome.
The casket arrived in an elaborate black carriage with gold trimmings fit for Cinderella. Six black horses with black plumed headdresses pulled the carriage, as a coachman with a black top hat reined them in front of the large, modern Don Bosco church in the Tuscolano neighborhood of Rome.
A marching band complete with horns and trumpets struck up the theme song to the “The Godfather” as dozens of men pulled the wooden coffin from the carriage and carried it above their heads into the church.
On the doorway to the church huge posters showed Vittorio Casamonica, the 65-year-old head of the Casamonica clan, dressed in white, looking rather Pope-like, with a cross at his neck. His image hovered over a photo of the Colosseum and another of St. Peter’s Basilica with the simple words at the bottom “King of Rome.”
Another poster showing the Pope-like image of Vittorio Casamonica declared, “You conquered Rome, and now you will conquer paradise.”
As the 600 mourners emerged from the church to slide the casket into a large Rolls-Royce, the helicopter flew above them releasing clouds of red rose petals.
Some 200 cars took part in the funeral cortege, including reportedly 12 pick-up trucks filled with funeral flower wreaths, and dozens of mourners on motor-cycles without helmets (riding with out a helmet is illegal in Rome, but that is a minor detail). The Casamonica clan has been accused of drug dealing, prostitution, usury and extortion.
Romans are still reeling in shock over the funeral with the details filling the newspapers and dominating the TV newscasts. Politicians and government bureaucrats are doing a lot of finger-pointing trying to blame each other for this ostentatious show.
The extravagant funeral comes at a bad time for the city which has been struggling with what has become known as “Mafia Capitale” a criminal gang which has for years filled the pockets of city bureaucrats to get public contracts and then skimmed off funds intended for everything from park maintenance to housing for migrants.
In recent years as the illegal group gained power, the city of Rome has shown clear signs of decay with garbage gathering on street corners, rotting fallen trees in overgrown parks and dysfunctional public transportation services.
A maxi-trial for 59 defendants in the “Mafia Capitale” case is scheduled to start on November 5th at a prison in Rome. Police indicated that while the Casamonica clan is considered to run illegal activities in the southwest part of Rome, Vittorio Casamonica has not been involved in the “Mafia Capitale” case.
I personally have been to the Don Bosco church twice. Once inside for a far humbler funeral for the father of a friend who lives in that neighborhood, and another time outside for a protest when the Catholic church refused to allow a funeral inside for Piergiorgio Welby, an Italian activist and writer in the advanced stages of muscular dystrophy who had a doctor sedate him and pull his breathing tube, allowing him to die. The Catholic Church refused to allow him a funeral saying his choice of euthanasia was against church doctrine.
On Friday, the priest at the Don Bosco church vigorously defended his decision to allow the funeral of Vittorio Casamonica claiming he was only alerted the night before to the event and was unaware of the extravagant fanfare around the funeral. He said he would do it again.
Italy’s civil aviation authority has suspended the license of the helicopter pilot saying he broke regulations by flying too low and dropping objects from his aircraft.
I am on vacation in the Italian Alps now, but I can’t wait to go back to Rome and check out Vittorio Casamonica’s tomb at Rome’s Verano cemetery.
Interestingly, the horse-drawn carriage is not a novelty for funeral among organized crime figures. In 1962 American Mafia boss Lucky Luciano died while visiting Naples. He was given an elaborate funeral with similar carriage. Check out these freeze frames of the video clip of the funeral I found in the AP archive. Anyone interested in seeing the full clip should go to aparchive.com and search “Lucky Luciano’s Funeral”
Any blog readers interested on some of my earlier posts on the Mafia, Italian Funerals, the Catholic Church and the Mafia, and Italian politicians and the mafia should check out the below posts:
POSTSCRIPT -AUGUST 24, 2015
I just love the Roman sense of humor. Today the paper shows a middle-aged woman from the Tuscolano neighborhood holding a sign outside the Don Bosco church that made me laugh out loud. It says the following:
“Tuscolana is in Chaos…Buses are blocked, the funeral cortege is escorted by the traffic cops from the City of Rome. The Mayor: “I didn’t know…I will ask…I wasn’t around, and if I had been, I would have been sleeping.” The Priest: “I didn’t know who he was, I didn’t see the posters, I didn’t hear anything.” YAH, RIGHT, AND I AM NAOMI CAMPBELL!!!
Trisha is a TV journalist working for AP TV News in Rome. She is married to an Italian and is a Mamma of three.