Brigands and Outlaws In The Val di Comino
Since ancient times there had been small bands of criminal outlaws or brigands in this area. They would prey on unsuspecting travelers during their journeys through the mountainous terrain of the Val di Comino in Ciociaria. However brigandage came to its peak following the Unification of Italy. These changes caused general social unrest. Some thought that the new regime seemed to favour the rich bourgeois landowners. Meanwhile it left the poorer lower classes still suffering. Many were forced to work in harsh conditions and struggled to feed their large families.
Some of the poor people were forced to emigrate to far flung lands. Some chose to revolt and formed resistance movements. They would launch vicious attacks on the rich elite, the landowners and members of the new Italian authority. Others turned to brigandage and gathered around a notorious leader forming local groups of armed outlaws.
Some became thieves and murderers who terrorised local villages with blood curdling attacks. Kidnappings and extortion were commonplace. The brigands, which included some women, would take refuge in caves in the surrounding hills and mountains. They knew the local terrain like the back of their hand. Therefore they were skilled at making a fast get-away. Some became thieves and murderers who terrorised local villages with blood curdling attacks.
These are the names of some of the most notorious brigands that operated in this area of Ciociaria: Marco Sciarra, Bernardino Colella, Domenico Colessa (also known as “Papone”), Tommaso Aniello (also known as “Masaniello”), Gaetano Mammone and Michele Pezza (also known as “Fra Diavolo”).
The Italian authorities ordered large numbers of troops to track down, kill or capture the outlaws. Furthermore in 1863 a powerful law was passed targeting the bandits. This permitted the execution of relatives or anyone suspected of aiding the outlaws. Yet it took several years before the brigands were finally successfully eliminated.
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