Woman sitting in the park in Palermo reading

How safe is Palermo? A look at the safest metropolis in Italy.

Palermo is known for its mafia past. Today, the capital of Sicily is considered the safest metropolis in Italy. The criminal structures have been fought by the judiciary and the population since the 1980s We proudly look back on these developments and take a look at the city's current crime rates.

by: Eugenio Rusignuolo | 03 Okt 2021

The safest metropolis in Italy

Some visitors to Palermo still wonder about security in Palermo. Countless Hollywood movies like "The Godfather" with Al Pacino and reports about times long gone have left a false image in people's minds. Fact is, Palermo is a very safe city.

We'll make you an offer you can refuse: Come to Palermo, the safest metropolis in Italy. Yes, you read that right. Gone are the days of the 80s when the mafia had its stronghold here. We'll look at the statistical figures that prove this later. But first, let's look at how Palermo was able to win the fight against organised crime and the role of the mafia. and the role played by the judiciary and the population. Here we go.

A brave man leads the turnaround

If you want to know how organised crime came to be in Palermo or Sicily and you are looking for gritty stories, we're sorry to disappoint you. We would much rather focus our attention on what we in Palermo are really proud of - the successful fight mafia by the government and civil society, and that Palermo is a safe destination with art, culture and cuisine.

The turnaround in dealing with the Mafia is due first and foremost to Giovanni Falcone, who, as an examining magistrate, set up a special commission in Palermo at the beginning of the 1980s. After years of investigative work, he led the prosecution in 1986 together with his colleague Paolo Borsellino in the so-called Maxi trial (maxiprocesso). In the process, around 400 members of the Mafia were put on trial and 344 of them, including numerous high-ranking members, were given life sentences - to this day the biggest blow to the organisation.

What is remarkable is how courageously and unflinchingly Falcone pursued his goal, even when numerous attacks were made against the investigators, bringing Palermo to sad notoriety in the 1980s.

The Spring of Palermo

At the beginning of 1992, the sentences handed down at first instance were confirmed by the Supreme Court and the Mafia was disenchanted. The victorious Falcone, who had penetrated to the core of the organisation with his investigations, was then killed with a car bomb on his way from the airport in revenge. The second prosecutor in the trial, Paolo Borsellino, also fell victim to an attack with a car bomb a good two months later.

These two assassinations of the symbolic figures of the fight against crime triggered a wave of indignation among the civilian population. Falcone's arrival at Palermo airport, which was kept top secret, was suspected to have been betrayed by aides in the inner circle of state power.

After the trial, the pressure of persecution had slackened, but now it was intensified again and has continued unabated ever since. The Italian state launched an offensive of repression that continues to this day, and the enraged population began to break free of the organisation's influence. The anger at the attacks turned into resistance and so began the "Spring of Palermo" with citizens' initiatives such as "Addio Pizzo" (translated as "Bye bye protection money").

The city's mayor, Leoluca Orlando, elected in 1985 and still in office today, also followed the Palermitan Spring by organising civil resistance against the clans. Under his aegis, the historic centre was also restored, alleys and squares were equipped with electric lighting, green spaces and parks were beautified and the Teatro Massimo was reopened to the public.

Under the leadership of Orlando, known as the "Lion of Palermo", the Sicilian capital has become one of the most important cultural and tourist cities in the country and was even named Italy's Capital of Culture in 2018.

Let's return to the statement that Palermo is the safest city in Italy today. We have picked out the statistics for you. Stay tuned.

Street Art Work with Judges Falcone and Borsellino
At the harbour, a well-known street art work shows the two judges Falcone & Borsellino
Photo: © Robin Marx - BnB Dolcevita

Latest crime statistics

The national statistics office Istat reported in 2019 that Palermo is the safest metropolis in Italy. This is based on the entire list of crimes, not just homicides. According to the Office of Statistics, the crime rate in Palermo in 2017 was 4400 crimes per 100,000 inhabitants. That is less than half of the 10,900 crimes per 100,000 inhabitants committed in Milan. And Rome or Naples (6000 per 100,000) also perform much worse than Palermo. The figures show that Palermo is no longer dominated by organised crime and that a holiday in Palermo is perfectly safe.

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Picture of a room at the Boutique BnB Dolcevita

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