Rose Petals Raining on Rome

raining rose petals

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.

A carriage pulls up in front of the Don Bosco church in Rome with the casket of clan boss Vittorio Casamonica. August 20, 2015. Credit: ANSA

A carriage pulls up in front of the Don Bosco church in Rome with the casket of clan boss Vittorio Casamonica. August 20, 2015. Credit: ANSA

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.

Coachman of horse-drawn carriage carrying casket with Vittorio Casamonica to his funeral in Rome. August 20, 2015

Coachman of horse-drawn carriage carrying casket with Vittorio Casamonica to his funeral in Rome. August 20, 2015

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.

Poster of Vittorio Casamonica, head of the Casamonica criminal clan, outside Don Bosco Church in Rome. August 20, 2015. Credit: ANSA

Poster of Vittorio Casamonica, head of the Casamonica criminal clan, outside Don Bosco Church in Rome. August 20, 2015. Credit: ANSA

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.”

Casket of Vittorio Casamonica being carried out of church after funeral in Rome. Poster reads in Italian "You conquered Rome, now you will conquer paradise." Thursday, August 20, 2015. Photo from newspaper

Casket of Vittorio Casamonica being carried out of church after funeral in Rome. Thursday, August 20, 2015. Poster reads in Italian “You conquered Rome, now you will conquer paradise.” Photo from newspaper clipping

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.

Helicopter flies low over Rome releasing rose petals over the funeral over clan boss Vittorio Casamonica. August 20, 2015. Freeze frame of video.

Helicopter flies low over Rome releasing rose petals over the funeral over clan boss Vittorio Casamonica. August 20, 2015. Freeze frame of video.

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”

Freeze frame of video from AP archive footage of the funeral of Mafia boss Lucky Luciano.  January 1962, Naples, Italy

Freeze frame of video from AP archive footage of the funeral of Mafia boss Lucky Luciano. January 1962, Naples, Italy

Freeze frame of video from AP archive footage of the funeral of Mafia boss Lucky Luciano.  January 1962, Naples, Italy

Freeze frame of video from AP archive footage of the funeral of Mafia boss Lucky Luciano. January 1962, Naples, Italy

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:

Mafia Claws Sinking into Weak Flesh

Dressed in Black

A Mobster’s Secrets – Taken to the Grave

The Catholic Church and the Mafia

Divine Julius

Excommunicating Mobsters is not that Simple

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 Thomas
Trisha is a TV journalist working for AP TV News in Rome. She is married to an Italian and is a Mamma of three.

16 Comments

  1. Kay
    2015/08/22

    I read that this happened while the mayor was out of town and Alfano is furious. What’s more, the police gave blockades for the procession?!? What gives? This whole scene along with the band outside the church playing the theme from “The Godfather” is just such a middle finger to anti-corruption/anti-mafia prosecutors. I can’t believe the pope is too happy about this either considering his recent speeches about the mafia.

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2015/08/23

      Yes, the Mayor of Rome, Ignazio Marino, is in the US on vacation. Interior Minister Alfano is furious, as is PM Renzi. The traffic police — instead of handing out tickets to the people without helmets or anyone else– did try to help with the traffic situation. But don’t even get me started on the traffic cops in Rome — that is worth another post. Let’s just say they probably got a handful of cash in their pockets. And, is it cynical of me to think that perhaps the parish had been getting some donations in their coffers from the Casamonica family before this funeral? The Osservatore Romano — the Vatican Newspaper– is now quoting the local bishop saying the priest should have sought permission from him, so the Vatican is trying to distance itself from that priest. What a mess!!

      Reply
  2. Kay
    2015/08/22

    On a side note, since you are in the north, you were probably aware of the attacking on cyclist Vittorio Brumotti which was so severe that I believe now he may lose his right eye. I have read that the attack was from a bunch of Albanians which has stirred up a bit of the anti-immigrant tensions. Brumotti is such an incredible cyclist, this is such an awful thing to happen. Do you happen to know any more?

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2015/08/23

      Wow Kay, I knew nothing about this. You can tell I have not been watching the news very closely. I was just looking at the video now. Dreadful. My son seems to know all about it. I will look into it. Thanks for telling me.

      Reply
  3. Alan
    2015/08/23

    . . funny how people get upset about guys like this – he was, after all, just another capitalist waging his wars for economic resources and sod the consequences and the locals. How is that different from any of the other mafia dons like Bush/Blair/Obama/Hollande/et al? Why is one form of criminality different from another? People die from guns/bombs/hit-men/assassination, you name it!

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2015/08/23

      Perhaps you are right Alan. My husband has been criticizing me and all the other journalists for making such a big deal out of this story. He says “where was all the media coverage when the Casamonica clan was busy with all their drug-dealing and prostitution?” He says, correctly, that we are jumping all over it now because the visuals are great and it makes a great yarn. Mea Culpa Mea Culpa

      Reply
  4. Adri
    2015/08/23

    Looking rather Pope-like indeed. My word! What a production, so to speak. Hollywood could not have achieved anything more. I am wondering if there was much outrage among the citizenry of Rome?

    I have vivid recollections of people being truly amazed and scoffing at Lucky Luciano’s funeral. My parents’ friends thought it was an outrageously overdone show – larger than life, even in death, they joked. I guess it is the same with this fellow.

    I am pleased to hear that you are on vacation, and I hope you are having a wonderful time. Please share some pix with us!

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2015/08/23

      Hey Adri — There has been a lot of outrage in Rome. The politicians are all back-stabbing each other trying to accuse others of being responsible. The papers and tv news programs are still chock-a-block with reports on the Casamonica family, their Ferraris and gold bathtubs etc. The video of the funeral is getting played over and over again.
      I am interested that you remember Lucky Luciano’s funeral. That must have been something. As someone whose family came from Abruzzo, you may be interested to know that the Casamonica Clan is Sinti in origin. The Sinti are a nomadic people from Romania. They came to Italy and settled in Abruzzo and then moved down to Rome in the 1970s and joined up with various criminal bands including the Banda della Magliana getting involved in money laundering, prostitution, drugs — you name it.

      Reply
      • Adri
        2015/08/26

        This Casamonica clan is really something, complete with the Abruzzo connection. Small world, and it gets smaller yet. My grandfather, Gaetano Crocetti, was born in Pescara, the heart of Casamonica territory. Dig it.

        I read Nancy’s comment with interest. You just would not believe the level of Trumpmania here. He has sucked all of the oxygen out of the room, and really is driving the discourse with his outrageous, hate-filled and downright incorrect information and commentary. I have never seen anything like it, save in history books. His chatter is so very inflammatory, and by design. He has struck a chord with the angry and disaffected among us, a fact that I find frightening and ominous. He talk of “China is killing us.” and “Let’s make America great again.” reminds me of Hitler”s talk about the Treaty of Versailles and how unfair it was. This entire situation gives me and other thinking people great pause. Further, it appears that Donald Trump has no plans to relinquish the podium any time soon.

        Reply
        • Trisha Thomas
          Trisha Thomas
          2015/08/26

          I am so fascinated by your comments and Nancy’s on all this Trumpmania. I had convinced myself that he is an August Phenomenon and his campaign will crash and burn come September. Now, I am wondering. I have also wondered if the Clinton camp isn’t secretly funding The Donald. He must be giving the democrats a big boost. My 20-year-old son was asking me this morning if I thought Trump could win the Republican nomination and I told him I think the powers-that-be in the Republican party (i.e. the people forking over all the money — Koch brothers, oil industry etc), will probably turn against him and back Jeb Bush. And since money is so important in US elections, that might do in the Donald. But I may be speaking out of my hat. What do you think?

          Reply
  5. Nancy Rockwell
    2015/08/23

    Wow, what a story! The carriage is like the ones British royal brides have for their weddings. So the message seems to be ” hey, all you people who think you are my social superioirs, my betters, I’m the best, I’m the purest, the Pope, the Virgin Bride.” And his chosen images are all about purity, which for a man whose reputation is tainted by bribery, extortion, usury, violence, and corruption, is an interesting fantasy.
    I think the most interesting question is succession – who will head his syndicate now? And why is this church the one that can be co-opted into serving such an unsavory group? And why can’t Italy get these syndicates under control?
    In a way, he is a version of Donald Trump, who has made billions and you know that cannot all be done on the up and up. He brags that he can buy and sell politicians, and has done so. And he brags that he has so much money no one can buy him. But given his love of money and of this kind of power, he is unlikely to hang around with another crowd if he is elected. And he may be elected. His support keeps growing. His latest release, a policy paper about immigrants, says that, as President he will announce open season on hunting down illegals, and allow people to shoot to kill in order to capture them.
    His appeal is not unlike Hitler’s appeal to the Germans, when he was first elected.
    When Trump dies, whether he has been President or not, I can imagine his casket in a carriage like this. And he has been appearing in a white linen suit lately . . . .
    My point is, we have our crime bosses here, thought the culture around them is slightly different.
    Glad you are on vacation, sorry to have missed you in MA, and do write more about all this!

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2015/08/24

      Yes, the whole white-purity business is crazy. Why would the family of a mafia clan boss want a poster of him looking like the Pope– all in white with a cross at his neck. They were playing the theme song to “The Godfather” — why not have him dress like Marlon Brando in the movie on the poster. Strange. Your connection to Donald Trump is so discouraging. How can this man not have crashed and burned yet? I hope the Trump phenomenon does not last beyond August, but his current popularity is an indication that there are a lot of people out there with some pretty racist attitudes who are backing him, and that is frightening.

      Reply
  6. mary jane
    2015/08/23

    The Casamonica clan have members living in our area north of Rome, they also had a funeral for a younger member of the clan (who died in motorcycle accident) that was similar on a smaller scale: a convoy of cars accompanied the funeral car all around the outlying areas, then came into the main piazza blocking access to the town-literally they took over the town for the duration of the ceremony. Noisy motorcycles accompanied the funeral car. People were outraged because the priest met the coffin outside and accompanied them into the church. The family tomb in the cemetery is the highest expression of kitsch funerary art I have ever seen.

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2015/08/24

      That is fascinating. I must be the only person living in Rome who had never heard of the Casamonica clan until last week!

      Reply
  7. Joan Schmelzle
    2015/08/24

    Oh My!!!
    What else can I say! I saw somewhere on line about rose petals floating down, and all I could think of was it’s a little late for the rose petals in St. Mary Major. I think that’s on August 5. There were no details. And the priest didn’t know? And I’m 25 years old!
    I hope you are enjoying your vacation and do let us know about the tomb. I am planning on visiting San Lorenzo and the cemetery when I am in Rome, but not to look for any particular tomb.
    A presto,
    Joan

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2015/08/25

      You wouldn’t believe all the dust kicked up by this funeral. It is still in the papers every day. I guess that is what happens in August. I will let you know on the tomb. Hope to see you when you are in Rome!

      Reply

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