Abandoned Mafia prison reopens as tourist attraction

Pianosa prison opens to public

Pianosa prison opens to public Photo: Milena Hotel

Part of a historic prison on the idyllic island of Pianosa where Italy’s most notorious gangsters were held, has been restored to promote tourism.

Situated between Corsica and mainland Tuscany in Italy’s Tyrrhenian Sea is the remote but paradisiacal island of Pianosa where some of Italy’s most notorious criminals and mafiosi have served long prison sentences.

Now, the island – with a current population of five – is to open a newly renovated section of a derelict prison in a bid to boost visitor numbers. Known as the ‘Alcatraz of the Tyrrhenian Sea’, Pianosa became a penal colony under the reign of Leopold II, Grand Duke of Tuscany in 1856. It served as an island prison from Roman times until the 1990s.

In 1992, some 55 mafia bosses including Michele ‘the Pope’ Greco, the first head of the Sicilian Mafia, were imprisoned and held incommunicado on the island following the murders of judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino.

Rehabilitation programme

Five years after this, the Italian government decided to close the prison for good and transfer the prisoners, leaving the island abandoned. From then on, the island came under the management of the National Park of the Tuscan Archipelago, which carried out a restoration of a section of the prison and which is now open to the public.

The island has remained linked to the prison system as part of an innovative rehabilitation programme; convicted criminals who have served a third of their sentence are transferred to Pianosa to work as cooks, receptionists and cleaners at the Milena Hotel, the only one on the island.

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Written by

Kevin Fraser Park

Kevin was born in Scotland and worked in marketing, running his own businesses in UK, Italy and, for the last 8 years, here in Spain. He moved to the Costa del Sol in 2016 working initially in real estate. He has a passion for literature and particularly the English language which is how he got into writing.