As everyone knows, Italy has a problem with organized crime. Libera Terra is one of the few, and bravest, grassroots organizations fighting it. Since a law was passed 13 years ago, saying that property acquired illegally be given to the community, more than 4,500 villas, farms, and other properties have been seized and returned to the people.
Libera Terra, which means "Free Land," sprung up from this law. The cooperative works the seized lands to produce (organic!) oil, wine, pasta, preserves, and other goodies; some of the agriturismi are available to stay at overnight (what a cool way to both delve into the local culture and support a good cause!). And each year, they run international community service camps, and they also often organize demonstrations and awareness-raising events against the Mafia's influence.
Think that sounds pretty cool? Me, too.
And the good news is… you can support them. And give some cool gifts (including, maybe, to yourself). At the same time.
Here are a few ways:
Give organic, Italian foods and wines
Remember how we talked about all of those gifts that would be great for foodies? Well, add this one to the list. Libera Terra sells all-organic, specialty Italian-food items–like Gragnano pasta, limoncello, marmalade made from Sicilian oranges, taralli, and wine. The prices are extremely fair, too (think €8 for a half-liter bottle of extra virgin olive oil, or €2.75 for a bag of Pugliese tarallini).
If you don't want to pick items individually, right now, Libera Terra offers several beautifully-packed Christmas gift box options, including the large gift box (12 items, including wine, for €45), the medium gift box (6 items, including wine, for €26), or this set of three southern Italian wines (€23).
You can place an order at the online Libera Terra shop; unfortunately, they only ship within Italy. Or, if you're coming to Italy, you can buy goods at one of Libera Terra's botteghe across the country. The newest was just opened in Milan last weekend; there are also stores in Florence, Pisa, Turin, Genova, Naples, and Palermo, among other cities (here's the complete list of Libera Terra shops). In Rome, the store, which is called "'La Bottega dei sapori e dei saperi della Legalità," was actually the first one opened in Italy. It's located at Via dei Prefetti 23; call +39 0669925262 for more.
Give the gift of travel—and a stay at an agriturismo in the land of The Godfather
Know anyone traveling to Sicily—or planning to travel yourself? Then give the gift of a stay at one of the agriturismi run by Libera Terra.
Agriturismi are, in my opinion, Italy's best-kept accommodation secret. These are farms, usually with separate guesthouses, where you can stay overnight. Usually, you have the option of a home-cooked dinner and breakfast. I've stayed in more than 100 of them, and the experiences have ranged—but I haven't had a single negative one. And contrary to misconceptions, no, you're not expected to help out on the farm or with the cooking, and no, you don't have to stay for a week or longer–often you can stay for just one night!
So I'm pretty psyched that it turns out that Libera Terra runs their own. And not only do they have two… but they're both in the Corleone province, made famous, of course, first by real Mafia bosses—and then by The Godfather's Vito Corleone. Pretty powerful stuff.
You can see their program of agriturismi in English here. Notable is that at each of the two agriturismi, Portella della Ginestra and Terre di Corleone, all-organic food is prepared with Slow Food principles. Both are near nature reserves, and the Portella della Ginestra is adjacent to a horse-riding center. Prices—starting at €70 per night, including all meals—are pretty darn good.
Finally, if you know anyone who's free Dec. 27-29—or if you are—there's a special "Weekend in Palermo" offered by Libera Terra. The escape includes two nights at a hotel in Palermo and visits to the Libera Terra-run farms on the Corleone land, all in a small group of just 12 to 15 participants. It's €198 per person.
Give a membership, including a subscription to Libera Terra's magazine
Show your support—and stay up-to-date with what's going on with the fight against criminal networks in the world—by becoming a member (or buying a membership for someone else!). It costs just €1 for a membership for those under 18 and €5 for young people between 18 and 25. For those over 25, it's just €15 for a year-long membership, including the magazine's 12 issues sent in PDF form, or €30 for those who want the magazine sent in print.
The magazine, Narcomafie, is in Italian, and the print issue only appears to be sent within Italy; however, if you live abroad and speak some Italian, I'm sure they'd be happy to PDF you the files for the cheaper membership fee!
Donate to Libera Terra
Not in Italy right now, but really, really like the sound of what Libera Terra is up to? Then donate! All you need is a credit card, and every little bit helps.
Please note that all photographs in this post are used courtesy of Libera Terra.
Check out my Italian gift guide calendar to make sure you don't miss a good idea!