Banditry in Maremma was an intense phenomenon, with deep roots, which marked this land for many decades.
Today, when we talk about brigands, we remember myths and legends about their work (to tell the truth, not always right and commendable), and it is certainly one of the most interesting and complex aspects of Maremma culture. We can indicate the beginning of banditry in Maremma in the thirteenth century, and its defeat in the early 1900s after the death of Domenico Tiburzi and Luciano Fioravanti.
Banditry in history
The birth of the phenomenon of banditry as we know it today, originates in lower Tuscany – in the territories located between the two consular roads Aurelia and Cassia, it took place between the end of the 12th and the beginning of the 13th century. In fact, in the fourteenth century, the lord of Scerpena, a certain Guicciardo di Baschi, decided to ally himself with some bands of thieves and raiders from Brittany, with the aim of stealing livestock in the nearby Sienese province. The gang was soon captured and arrested thanks to the intervention of an armed detachment, the garrison that worked to capture the gang remained on a permanent basis in the Castle of Scerpena to monitor the area, the precarious living conditions in that area soon brought those men to cross the other side of the barricade, becoming, in effect, part of those brigands they had been sent to fight. The situation in the territory of lower Tuscany and upper Lazio continues to worsen even in the fifteenth century, when an impotent immigration phenomenon brought in this area a large number of criminals and bandits who soon began to cause concern and confusion among the population and governments. The difficult situation continued, in fact, in 1500, Pope Sixtus V decided to engage in a hard fight against banditry, just think that in this period the phenomenon was so widespread that it was necessary to establish an official document for honest citizens, where it was reported the indication “not banned”. In 1593 the edict “Motu Proprio” was issued in Tuscany through which it was intended to repopulate the area corresponding to the current province of Grosseto, by granting immunity for all those who had decided to move there, without distinction of nationality and offenses. This edict therefore brought in Maremma a large number of criminals, coming from all over the world, who saw the crimes canceled, but who still continued their criminal activity, increasing the already difficult condition of this territory. The darkest period for these lands, however, is certainly the 1800s, when the phenomenon of banditry in the border areas between Tuscany and Lazio took on even more violent and criminal connotations.
Banditry between the 19th and 20th centuries
The nineteenth century marks the most violent period of banditry in Maremma, made up of murder, extortion, murder and robbery. Moreover, compared to previous centuries, the living conditions of the poor people had not improved at all and even the territories had remained in the same conditions, between swamps, impenetrable woods and crumbling communication routes. In this scenario, brigandage had fertile ground for its proliferation and already at the end of 1700 in the areas of the upper Viterbo, Latera, Valentano and Gradoli, the names and fearsome deeds of some of the cruelest brigands of the time echoed, such Fumetta, Marcotullio, Mattaccinoi, Marintacca and Bustrenga, who acted almost undisturbed even beyond the Lazio border. But the period of greatest growth of banditry began after the unification of Italy, with a document the prefecture of Grosseto in 1868 alerted the mayors of the municipalities of Pitigliano and Sorano, of the inaction of dangerous criminals, such Ragno (born Giulio Castellani ) and Leone Serra, who escaped the authorities thanks to the help of the farmers. Four years later the situation has not changed and in other communications the Prefecture of Grosseto asks the municipalities of the Maremma to increase the searches in the woods, in order to find the fugitive brigands. Starting from 1876 the situation became even more difficult, it is in fact in this period that the names of Domenico Tiburzi and Domenico Biagini, two of the most feared and known brigands of the Maremma, begin to circulate, just think that the reward for their capture was raised. up to 1500 lire. In this climate of concern, still other characters made authorities and citizens tremble, Enrico Stoppa di Talamone, David Biscarini, Vincenzo Pastorini, Fortunato Ansuini, Damiano and Settimio Menichetti, Antonio Ranucci, Sebastiano Menchiari, Settimio Albertini, Angelo Scalabrini and Luigi Demetrio Bettinelli. With the death of Tiburzi and Luciano Fioravanti, which took place between the end of the 1800s and the beginning of the 1800s, banditry in Maremma suffered a profound setback, coinciding with the first social nights in Italy, such as the strikes in Cerignola, the strikes in the Sardinian mines, the great general strike in Milan and, in the Maremma area, the occupation of land in one of the estates in the municipality of Manciano.
The causes of banditry in Maremma
What were the causes of the birth and spread of banditry in Maremma?
Banditry is a social phenomenon, the reasons for this phenomenon are therefore to be found in the living conditions of the population mainly, summarizing five triggering reasons can be identified:
- THE LATIFONDO: the land, often affected by the presence of swampy areas not reclaimed, was used for traditional crops, the owners who often resided in cities or major centers, recruited farmers to work the land, underpaying them and often forcing them to a life of hardship, made up of fatigue, hunger and poor living conditions, given the presence of dangerous malarial marshes, especially during the summer season
- THE LACK OF CONNECTIONS: the distance between the villages and the poor condition of the roads, favored degradation and poverty
- THE FAVORITATION OF LAND OWNERS: who, in order to guarantee peace and protection, paid the so-called “banditry tax” to the brigands
- FAVORING THE POPULATION: especially of the peasants and the poorer classes, who saw in the brigands their redemption for the wrongs suffered by the richest, figures in a certain sense “heroic” who punished the rich owners of the land by protecting agricultural workers and often claiming their rights
- THE TERRITORY: mainly covered by dense woods and scrubs that guaranteed a safe hiding place for the brigands and an impenetrable labyrinth for the police.
The end of banditry in Maremma
Tiburzi’s death marked the end of banditry in Maremma, in fact there were few exponents still at large, including the feared Luciano Fioravanti, who escaped capture in 1896. Four years later, on June 24, 1900, Luciano Fioravanti was killed, at the Lascone farm, with a shotgun shot in his sleep by Gaspero Mancini, his friend, who took his life in order to rob him of his possessions and then pocket the cut on his head. The act committed by Mancini, however, was so petty that even the Municipal Council of Manciano refused to grant him the honor of civil value (which would have been due to him for the killing of one of the most fearsome brigands of the time), for his unworthy act against Luciano Fioravanti.