Defying the Mafia: The courage to be a witness


Photograph of two signigficant Mafian mob members talkingOverview:
The course examines the strenuous commitment, often at a terrible price, of journalists, magistrates, police officers, writers, film directors, traders and ordinary citizens in fighting against organized crime in Italy from the late 1970s until now.

You will investigate their strength and courage to testify and reclaim their towns and ways of life through historical resources, literature, films and interviews. Relevant printed materials, links to online sources and a recommended reading/viewing list will be provided during the course.

Target audience:
This course will appeal to those with an interest in Italian contemporary history and civil commitment.

Learning objectives:
By the end of this course, you will have:

  • know more about Italian recent history in its causes and consequences.
  • Have learnt about Italian historical figures, magistrates and activists
  • Appreciated the efforts of journalists, writers, artists and film directors in defying the Mafia
  • Have developed a better understanding of organized criminality and of ordinary/extraordinary ways to fight it.
  • Be able to discuss the matter from a non-rhetorical point of view

Course outline:
Each session will include a lecture presentation with time for questions and group discussion.

Session 1: Introduction to the origin of ‘Cosa nostra’.

  • L.Sciascia, ‘The Day of the Owl’.
  • Peppino Impastato, ‘One hundred steps’. Radio Out. Libera Terra.

Session 2: Rocco Chinnici and his escorts;

  • Caterina Chinnici with Sergio Castellito: ‘Com’è lieve il tuo bacio sulla fronte’ (‘How delicate is your kiss on my brow’).

Session 3: Giovanni Falcone and his escorts;

  • Tina Montinaro and Rosaria Schifani with Alessandro Chiolo: ‘Nome in codice: Quarto Savona 15. Km 10287 e oltre’ (Code name: Quarto Savona 15. Km 10287 and beyond.’)

Session 4: Paolo Borsellino and his escorts;

  • Rita Borsellino: ‘Reclaiming Sicily’ and other initiatives.

Session 5: Roberto Saviano, ‘Gomorra’ and his following works.

There is a short break halfway through each session and you are welcome to bring your own refreshments if you wish.

Antonella Sarti Evans is a teacher of Italian language and culture. She completed a PhD in the literatures of English speaking countries with a specialization in New Zealand contemporary literature from the University of Rome, La Sapienza in 2001. She is a researcher, translator and writer herself. She has a passion for history and arts.

“This was really well done. Antonella checked in with us and adjusted the course to our needs and expectations as we went along. Lots of variety: poetry, art, travel information, music, recipes. All helping to whet the appetite for travel to Italy, as well as informing”, Hidden Gems of Northern and Central Italy (2018)

“Antonella was a fabulous teacher. Heaps of really helpful and previously unknown, info re Italy, I would recommend this course to others”, Hidden Gems of Northern and Central Italy (2018)

Relevant links:
School of Languages and Cultures
Circolo Italiano di Wellington

For further information:
Continuing Education, Victoria University of Wellington, PO Box 600, Wellington 6140.
Phone 04 463 6556,  Email:

Please note: Courses need a minimum number of enrolments to go ahead. If your course doesn’t reach the number required, we’ll have to cancel it. If this happens, we’ll contact you by phone or email about a week before the scheduled start date and arrange a full refund. Please check your emails regularly.