Tue, Jul 10, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Jailed mafioso's Naples mansion to be put to good use


Gangsters the world over have long looked up to Tony Montana, the fictional Cuban drug dealer in the 1983 film Scarface, who dies in a hail of bullets in his kitsch, neo-classical Miami villa.

One Naples mobster, Walter Schiavone, was so enamored of the character played by Al Pacino he built a 2 million euro (US$2.7 million) replica of the villa, complete with the curved double staircase from which Montana takes his death dive.

But instead of meeting the glorious fate of his hero, Schiavone was arrested on murder charges in 1999 while trying to escape over his garden wall, and now Naples authorities have decided to rub his nose in it further by turning the villa into a physiotherapy center for disabled people.

"The best way for us to fight the mafia and win over the community here is to take the Mafia's symbols of power and make them serve the community," said Enrico Tedesco, an official at the regional authority of Campania.

The brother of the boss of the feared Casalesi clan, Schiavone commissioned his villa by handing a video of Scarface to a local architect and telling him to build what he saw.

Known simply as "Hollywood" by locals, the villa boasts views over a huge garden and pool from a balcony sandwiched between two tiers of classical pediment mounted on double sets of columns -- similar to the balcony from which Pacino's character sprays machine-gun fire before his demise.

Today the luxury fittings inside the house are gone. After the official seizure of the house, Schiavone's men slipped in to strip the marble, parquet, antique furniture and even the bathroom tiles before filling the rooms with car tires and setting fire to them.

"The villa needs work before we open in 2008, but we definitely wanted to keep the existing structure in place for its symbolic value," Tedesco said.

The villa joins a series of converted Mafia properties around Naples, including a Medici villa now used as a youth center and a villa seized from the Zaza clan in Pomigliano D'Arco, which is now the local police station.

Naples mobsters continue to mimic Hollywood gangsters, according to author Roberto Saviano, who wrote in his best-selling Camorra chronicle Gomorra, that hitmen were missing their targets because they insisted on holding their guns tilted like the characters in Quentin Tarantino films.

By attempting to flee police, Schiavone may have failed to make life imitate art, but as he serves out his sentence he may be grateful that art is imitating him.

Gomorra, which documents the exploits of the Casalesi clan, is now being made into a film.

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