Pretty beach town with a seedy mafia underbelly

THE resort town of Ostia, on Italy’s west coast, is a magnet for tourists in the European summer but is also mafia territory where clans carve up the drugs and extortion business.

“If you don’t see anything, hear anything or say anything, then you can live to be 100 here,” a sexagenarian resident of Ostia, near Rome, told AFP, declining to give his name.

“But if you want to change things, then you are going to have some major problems ahead,” he added.

“That should have happened a lot earlier. These problems are enrooted and now it’s no good lopping off a branch because another will grow and the tree will be just the same.”

Ostia, a town with a population of 85,000, where many live on impoverished estates, has been in the media spotlight since last week when the brother of a mafia boss violently assaulted a journalist.

Lido Di Ostia, Italy – September 14, 2016: Swimming and relaxing people on the beautiful beach Lido di Ostia ( Lido di Roma), private beach Battistini, Italy.Source:istock

Roberto Spada was filmed headbutting TV reporter Daniele Piervincenzi, before attacking him with a baton.

Piervincenzi had been investigating Spada’s alleged links to the far-right CasaPound movement and his nose was fractured in the attack.

In Ostia on Friday dozens of Italian journalists protested in defence of freedom of speech after the attack on their colleague.

Piervincenzi was questioning Spada for a report for national broadcaster Rai about municipal elections, two years after the local council was dissolved due to mafia infiltration.

Roberto Spada, 2nd from right, leaves the Carabinieri barracks in Ostia, near Rome, Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017. Italian police have detained a man caught on video head-butting a reporter from state-run RAI television amid an interview about his support for a neo-fascist movement. Journalist Daniele Piervincenzi and his RAI cameraman were conducting interviews in Ostia after the neo-fascist, anti-immigrant CasaPound movement scored big in Ostia municipal elections Sunday. One of their subjects, Roberto Spada, who had voiced support for CasaPound, suddenly interrupted the interview, head-butted Piervincenzi, chased after him and the cameraman and beat them with a stick. (Massimo Percossi/ANSA via AP)Source:AP

CasaPound, suspected of links to organised crime in the area, won eight per cent of the first round votes.

Italian police arrested Spada on Thursday for assault, with prosecutors saying his behaviour was typical of methods used by organised crime groups to control territory.

While no one in the town openly talks about the mafia, its influence is all pervasive.

“Look at that beach. Not long ago the beach huts, towels, life guards were all abusively managed by the clan,” one resident said.

“But since last summer, nothing. The municipality decided to seek tenders for the management, but no one has bid,” he added, smiling knowingly.


The attack on Piervincenzi didn’t just upset fellow journalists. Ostia residents also turned out to defend freedom of expression.

Italian carabinieri stand guard during a demonstration of Italian journalists to defend freedom of speech on November 10, 2017, in Ostia, in front of the gym owned by Roberto Spada, who was filmed headbutting Italian TV channel RAI reporter Daniele Piervincenzi, before attacking him with a baton. Piervincenzi had been investigating Spada’s alleged links to the far-right CasaPound movement and his nose was fractured in the attack. / AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTESource:AFP

“Let’s just say that the presence of the press has forced law enforcement to lift the lid on the issue,” Silvia Frau, a resident, told AFP.

“I hope they stay once the media rush is over,” she added.

However another local passing by said that the reporter “was looking for it and he got it”.

“He should have known when to stop. He was too insistent, he wanted to dig a little too deep”.

Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi, of the populist Five Star Movement, was one of the first politicians to react to the attack, calling the violence unacceptable and pledging a crackdown on crime.

“Spada’s arrest is proof that there are no lawless areas in Italy,” the interior ministry said in a statement.

Lido Di Ostia, Italy – September 14, 2016: Relaxing people on the pier (Pontile Di Ostia) near beautiful beach Lido di Ostia ( Lido di Roma), Italy.Source:istock

CasaPound came fourth in Sunday’s first round voting in the municipal elections and is hoping to do better in the second round on November 19.

It is calling on voters to kick out Raggi who it claims “hasn’t even managed to move an abandoned mattress in 18 months”.

The Spada clan is notoriously violent. Seven members of the family were sentenced to a combined 56 years in jail in October, and Roberto’s brother Carmine was ordered to serve 10 years last year for extortion and mafia association.

Members of Italy’s far-right CasaPound movement, Luca Marsella (L), CasaPound Vice-President Simone Di Stefano (C) and Carlotta Chiaraluce prepare to speak during a press conference at CasaPound’s headquarters in Rome on November 9, 2017. Italy reeled on November 9 from images of an attack on a journalist by a mobster in a Rome suburb, as local prosecutors opened an investigation. Daniele Piervincenzi, who works for the Rai national television broadcaster, was asking the brother of a famous mafia boss about his ties to the far-right CasaPound movement when he was set upon on camera in Ostia. / AFP PHOTO / TIZIANA FABISource:AFP

CasaPound insists that is all part of a campaign to discredit the movement. “What CasaPound has done on the ground is anti-mafia work, anti-organised crime,” the group’s vice president Simone Di Stefano.

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