Civic monitoring report
Requalification of a confiscated property to create a climate colony - Le Cannella

Sent on 13/03/2023 | By | @TheLandclaim3rs

What we found out

Project objectives

The project "Requalification of a confiscated property to create a climatic colony", now under the supervision and monitoring of the Landclaim3rs team, was approved to transform this magnificent house into a climatic colony for disabled people in compliance with the objective of social inclusion and the fight against illegality fixed in the Por Conv Fesr Calabria program, according to which 450,000 € were allocated to the Municipality. With the expression "climatic colony" the creators of the project wanted to indicate the construction of a summer center for the disabled and minors. The villa, confiscated from the boss Nicola Arena, stands on a cliff in front of one of the largest marine reserves in Europe. The project had as its operational objective that of countering and reducing the levels of insecurity and illegality in the region also through the growth of the social capital of the Calabrian community. The specific objective of the national strategic framework was in fact to improve the quality and equity of social and work participation, through greater integration and accessibility of social protection, care and reconciliation services and training, learning and work systems, with particular attention to equal opportunities and anti-discrimination actions in order to - promote an inclusive society and ensure security conditions in order to - permanently improve the context conditions that most directly favor development.

Foreseen activities

The executive project of the infrastructural works and the systems of the climatic colony it was also envisaged the construction of external and internal restructuring of the building, the addition of an external body which consists of an open veranda and a covered one, to be used for recreational activities and the demolition, both for internal and external environments, architectural barriers. On the ground floor there was a solarium, a kitchen for common use, a TV room, a canteen and bedrooms with en suite bathrooms for guests and personal care workers. An elevator was used to allow access to the second floor. While access to the sea was facilitated by the construction of special ramps. It was also envisaged the construction of external consolidation, to make the structure safer and to avoid landslides. The building, as shown in table 9 of the executive project, would also have been equipped with photovoltaic panels, emergency exits and fire escape stairs. The start of the project was scheduled for December 31st, 2012, and the end for June 15th of the same year. The villa belonged to Nicola Arena, one of the most powerful boss of the 'Ndrangheta, and was confiscated on the 14th October 1997. On the 20th August 2001, the State Property Agency sent notices of eviction. On the 24th October of the same year, the Municipality of Isola indicated to the agency the destinations of the confiscated assets. A decree of the 29th March 2002 from the State Property Agency provides the transfer of the confiscated property to the Municipality for social purposes. The structure should have become a research center for the protection of marine species, since one of the largest marine reserves in Europe is located in this area. In 2012, however, a different project was approved for the redevelopment. It is planned to create a climatic colony for the disabled, in aderence to the objective of social inclusion and the fight against illegality set in the POR CONV FESR Calabria program 2007-2013, with which 382.980,05 euros have been allocated to the Municipality. The first down payment, of 30%, was requested by the municipality in 2011; the last payment dates back to 2016 with an increase in spending up to 416,457.59 euros. In 2018 the prefect Mannino, appointed following the second commissioner of the Municipality, orders the assignment of 15 confiscated assets. These include the vandalized villa of Nicola Arena at the Kroton Community Onlus. In the document on the state of confiscated assets published in 2021 it is said that the association has presented a project of national value and is awaiting the results. Yet the programmatic document for the three-year period 2019-21 of the current municipal administration still provides for the construction of the climatic colony in that structure on "sheet 31 parcel 12". Today, however, of that asset, for which 15 years have passed since the definitive confiscation only doors and windows are torn down and glass shattered.

Project origin

In 2012, the municipal administration of Isola di Capo Rizzuto, led by the mayor Carolina Girasole, presented four projects to the single contracting station, including the one being monitored, which envisaged renovation works on buildings confiscated properties by organised crime, with loans of Pon security– Por Calabria 2007-2013. Subsequently, with DGR n. 160 of February 27, 2010; the Regional Council had implemented the Integrated Project for Regional Development «Properties confiscated by organised crime», using the financial resources of Intervention Line «Actions for the implementation of Local Security Contracts» (POR FESR 2007-2013). The project of the Municipality of Isola di Capo Rizzuto "Redevelopment of a confiscated asset to create a climatic colony - Le Cannella" for an amount of 450,000.00€, for which a special agreement was stipulated listed under no. 1799 of November 3, 2011; with DGR 160/2010 it was finally admitted to funding.


Implementer and beneficiary of this project is the Municipality of Isola di Capo Rizzuto. The citizens themselves would have taken advantage of the results of this project, in a context with a high mafia density such as Isola di Capo Rizzuto. These were very important interventions, because they were all intended for young people. In fact, only with the daily and collective use of these confiscated assets we could hope to increase culture and respect for the common good. When the Girasole Administration took office in 2008, the Municipality was coming from a very long period of receivership; about 5 years during which it was not possible to carry out any type of programming. In fact, the project is part of Axis IV - Quality of Life and Social Inclusion to underline the importance of initiatives related to the return to the community of assets confiscated from the 'Ndrangheta. In 2012, after two years, the Region had finally released the funding for the use of the confiscated assets. And it was finally possible to present the projects.


According to what is reported in the text of the Operational Program of the Calabria Region for the years 2007-2013, overall, in this region, the conditions of legality appear particularly critical, even if the "official" statistical indicators often fail to grasp the seriousness of the offenses and the phenomena of illegality affecting the Region. Among the "sensitive areas", Isola di Capo Rizzuto. The Province of Crotone, as reported in the 2021 DIA report, is historically characterized by a widespread mafia presence. After the mafia war that developed from 2000 to 2006, according to what emerges from the investigations, here the 'Ndrangheta was able to accumulate enormous profits and completely infiltrate the social and economic fabric of the territory. This is why this project, which integrates into the more general recovery and reuse strategy of the numerous confiscated real estate assets present in the municipal area, focuses on the possibility of involving young people, and those who find themselves in conditions of particular difficulty, in carrying out activities on confiscated assets, which testify to the state's ability not only to counter the raison d'être of criminal powers, that of accumulating wealth, but to transform a condition of illegality into an opportunity for social growth. Precisely for this reason, in 2010, the municipal administration that had taken office after a long phase of receivership, had given centrality to the recovery and enhancement of the confiscated assets present in the area. In the planning presented by the municipal administration, among the buildings to be renovated there was a two-floor building, subject to our monitoring, which overlooks the sea in the Le Cannella area, and which was expected to be transformed into a climatic colony, but also a villa to be used as an educational institution; the rearrangement of a third and fourth floor of a building located in via Le Castella, which should have housed the "House of music for minors at risk", a didactic botanical garden of Mediterranean flora, on the land also confiscated from Nicola Arena in the Cepa area . It should be highlighted that all those assets that have been assigned over the years, unlike the now vandalized climatic colony, have become an element of promoting social cohesion.


The start of the project was scheduled for December 31st, 2012, and the end for June 15th of the same year.
The intervention, eligible for funding under the 2007-2013 European Regional Development Fund Programme, was started by the council led by the former mayor Gianluca Bruno, but, since the work had been almost completed, the building was vandalized several times. The planning document for the three-year period 2019-21 of the municipal administration, now led by the mayor Maria Grazia Vittimberga, still provides for the construction of the climatic colony in that structure on "sheet 31 parcel 12". Today, however, all that remains are torn doors and windows, shattered glass and piles of rubbish that seem to erase again another opportunity to revitalize a territory too often harassed by the only criminal organization, the 'Ndrangheta, still operating in all five continents. For years no one has dared to set foot in that two-storey house to reuse it for social purposes despite the already squandered public money. We tried to do it, The Landclaim3rs, a group of Ciliberto students convinced that the value of a confiscated property should be a dynamic and proactive mean to create new alternatives in this area. Only in this way it will be possible to think of the goods confiscated from the mafias as new common goods capable of creating opportunities for people and their communities especially in those territories, such as Crotone district, where alternatives to mafia power seem to be absent. Within the theme of common goods and their reuse, in fact, there are also the challenges of our contemporary world: the struggle for rights. The European concepts of democracy and citizenship, as well as those inherent in our Constitution, starting from the application of article 3, even in the land of Calabria, are strengthened from the claim of social rights, as already claimed in the name of our team, to distance a territory and its people from the bloody hands of godparents and masters who have even deprived us of our dignity. The logo created by the team shows a confiscated and restructured asset depicted in red – as a symbol of spilled blood -, whose subsequent vandalization has destroyed a social reuse that would guarantee rights and economic development.


The project did not achieve efficient results. The confiscated asset, whose restructuring times have been respected, and was never assigned by the former mayor Gianluca Bruno, has been vandalized several times, starting from 2012. The municipal administration was commissioned for mafia infiltrations, the Prefect Mannino in 2018 assigns it to the Kroton community onlus which presents a new project of national value for its reuse. Subsequently, the same association will renounce the assignment. Currently, vandalization has prevented the villa, confiscated from one of the most powerful bosses of the 'Ndrangheta, from becoming a climatic colony for the disabled and minors, transforming what is still a symbol of the power of the 'Ndrangheta in the area into an instrument of social inclusion.


The project itself has no weaknesses, but the vandalization of the building once the work is completed and the consequent failure to build the climatic colony for the disabled risk becoming a further critical element with respect to the fight against the 'Ndrangheta systems that control the territory.


The project envisaged the creation of a climatic colony for the disabled, focusing on an idea of inclusion that leads to the recognition of a right as a form of contrast to exclusion, an even stronger concept if carried forward in an asset taken away by organised crime. At the basis of the project was the desire to place the question of disability in the social dimension of the right of citizenship by promoting dignified living conditions for people who had difficulties in their personal and social autonomy. This is why promoting social inclusion, through the recovery of confiscated assets, helps to strengthen the conditions of legality in the most difficult areas of our country, such as Isola di Capo Rizzuto.


The concrete risk for this renovated and vandalized building is that it will continue to remain, continuing the state of abandonment in which it is currently finds itself, an eternal symbol of the power that the 'Ndrangheta exercises over the territory. The project was integrated into the more general recovery and reuse strategy of the numerous confiscated real estate assets present in the municipal area. These were interventions that aimed above all involving the population, through the various bodies of the social partnership, in paths of redemption and cultural change. In this sense, the confiscated assets could represent a tool of great symbolic value aimed to strengthening consensus towards the institutions in their activity to combat organized crime. The most innovative element of the project proposal concerned the possibility of involving a significant number of users with disabilities, especially young people, in the activities on a confiscated asset, to ensure them acceptable levels of well-being.

Ideas and solutions

In a context of high crime rate which for many years has seen the municipal administrations of Isola di Capo Rizzuto dissolved by mafia infiltration, we believe that the relationship between the institutions and the managers of the confiscated assets must be strengthened by creating an integrated approach of support and assistance to the various actors involved in asset management through the implementation of territorial governance. This is why the Landclaim3rs team, after the shipwreck on our beaches on February 26 that caused the death of at least 86 people, proposes to carry out actions to facilitate access to housing, to host migrants and unaccompanied children temporarily unable to independently provide for their needs, through the recovery of confiscated real estate or assets available, for various reasons, to the public administrations to be used for residential purposes and used as reception facilities. In this case, the use of confiscated assets would not only have a strong symbolic value but would become an action of applied legality carried out by a State which is, and must be, the garrison of democracy especially in a difficult territory like this. Taking away from the criminal circuit a heritage that is destined for those fleeing war places, we believe, is the best way to enhance the social purposes of the reuse of confiscated assets. We hope that the Prefecture will be able to identify the properties for residential use, transferred to the Municipalities but not yet used or not yet included in their assets, suitable for being used and facing this which is to all intents and purposes a humanitarian emergency. This could be one of the possible concrete answers that a democratic state gives above all to the most fragile people such as women and children. What is proposed is a collaboration pact based on the principle of horizontal subsidiarity to facilitate the processes of regeneration of a confiscated asset, uniting a multiplicity of forces around a common purpose. These assets of a private criminal nature must become laboratories for building a culture of legality and a renewed local development, in the name of sharing benefits and responsibilities between citizens and the public administration. Only in this way will it be possible to think of the goods confiscated from the mafias as new common goods, i.e. those "things that express functional utilities for the exercise of fundamental rights as well as for the free development of the person", according to the definition of common good elaborated by the Rodotà commission, and where it will be possible to think as alternatives for people and their communities, especially in those areas where alternatives to mafia power seem to not exist.

Investigation method

How was the information collected?

  • Web research
  • Visit to the project's location, documented by pictures or videos
  • Interview with people responsible for the project's planning
  • Interview with the users and/or final beneficiaries of the intervention
  • Interview with people responsible for the project's implementation
  • Interview with political leaders

Carolina Girasole, ex mayor of Isola Capo Rizzuto
Antonio Anastasi, journalist of Quotidiano del Sud

Main questions

1. How important were the confiscated assets in your administrative activity? (Carolina Girasole, ex mayor of Isola Capo Rizzuto)
2. What is the current state of the property confiscated from Nicola Arena in Le Cannella district ? (Antonio Anastasi, journalist of Quotidiano del sud)

Main answers

1. I had announced the planning on confiscated assets in 2012, during a public meeting entitled “Beyond words. The confiscated goods return to the town”. The funding funds were all EU and the planning was demonstrating the commitment of the Administration in the fight against organized crime. Some of the projects implemented were born from the ideas of young people, such as that of the music house designed by the students of the Spartitore school. The botanical garden was born from a need of the middle school students who, out of their love for nature, had asked to build a place where to carry out workshops to learn about plants and care of themselves. The climatic colony for the disabled, on the other hand, had as its main purpose integration through the activation of inclusive paths capable of giving place to the richness of difference, adapting the rooms of a villa stolen from a boss to meet the specific uniqueness of each one. All this was essential to me because when an administration makes assets the State has confiscated from the 'Ndrangheta available again, whether they are villas or lands, it actually returns them to the town.
2. The story of this property is yet another one of delays and defaults, with the shadow of pressure from the clans in the background, a film already seen in these latitudes, when at the centre of the scene there are, actually, assets confiscated from the 'Ndrangheta. The recurring script begins with the definitive confiscation of the property, then estimated at 200 million ex lire value, dating back to 14 October 1997, the date of a sentence by the Court of Cassation. Together with that villa, a three floor building for a value of one billion and 57 million lire in Parco Inziti, a three floor building in the locality of Le Cannella, a rustic estate one billion and 130 million worth, lands in Bordogna, Cardinale, Cepa, San Giovanni, Vermica, an apartment in Cropani Marina, another building in Sellia Marina and another two in Isola. Since February 1970, Nicola Arena, hired as a guardian at the Valtur resort with the salary of one million ex lire a month, owing to the patrimonial investigations conducted by the Catanzaro DDA, could not have access to all those assets, considering the result of illicit proceeds. Especially since he had been sentenced irrevocably to 14 years' imprisonment - after the 27 February 1997 sentence from the Appeals Court in Catanzaro, by which the Criminal Court of Crotone 15-year sentence to the boss was re-determined, became irrevocable on 14 October of the same year, date of the simultaneous definitive acquisition of the Boss assets to the State property- (and after) being judged as the head of a mafia association involved into extortion, including those at the expense of Valtur Resort, and any illegal activity aimed at economically strengthening the gang he led, by awarding and piloting of tenders.
We are talking about the charismatic leader of one of the most powerful clans of the 'Ndrangheta, who had his dominance felt over a vast area that includes territories between the provinces of Crotone and Catanzaro. The three-year period 2019-21 programmatic document of the municipal administration, today led by the mayor Maria Grazia Vittimberga, still provides for the construction of the climatic colony in that structure on "sheet 31 parcel 12", but the formal-legal slang does not say that there are only stumps surrounded by decay left. Meanwhile, the house is still there, deteriorating among piles of abandoned rubbish, exposed to all weather conditions.