A New Anti-Mafia Museum in Italy Will Immerse Visitors in Sights, Sounds, and Smells

The museum's home is an 18th-century neo-classical palace.

A 2019 mural by Rosk and Loste portraying a famous photo of Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino by Tony Gentile on the facade of the Istituto Nautico Gioeni - Trabia in Palermo. (Photo by Stefano Montesi - Corbis/Getty Images)

May 23, 2023 marks 31 years since tensions between Sicily’s Cosa Nostra mafia and the Italian government reached an explosive turning point. The date will now also mark the opening of a new anti-mafia museum in Palermo, Italy, dedicated to Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, two anti-crime leaders who were murdered within 57 days of each other by the Sicilian mafia.

The publicly and privately funded museum will open in Palermo’s 18th-century neoclassical Palazzo Jung palace, sources report. Joining an existing No Mafia Memorial and museum, the new institution will offer archival documents, film, and photos on loan from major Italian museums, as well as immersive experiences featuring scent and sound. Two further locations in Rome and Bolzano are also being planned.

The project is spearheaded by Fondazione Falcone, established by Maria Falcone, sister to Giovanni. The late Falcone died on May 23, 1992 in an explosion detonated by mobsters in a last ditch effort to thwart plans for an Anti-Mafia Investigative Directorate (DIA) and a National Anti-Mafia Directorate (DNA). Both Falcone and Borsellino were in the running to head the DNA as its “Super Prosecutor.” Both died by bombings—Falcone first, from a 1,100-pound blast so powerful it registered with earthquake monitors on the other side of Sicily.

The remains of Giovanni Falcone’s armored Croma escort car on view in Milan during March 2022. Photo: Emanuele Cremaschi/Getty Images.

Maria Falcone emphasized in a statement that the foundation’s latest endeavor “will not simply be a museum of memory but also a dynamic place where people can meet,” calling it “a special cultural space that unites institutions, led by the State Police and the Carabinieri, private individuals, and other partner museums.”

The museum follows the foundation’s other anti-mafia initiatives in Palermo. In 2022, its Spazi Capaci project recruited artists including Andrea Buglisi, Peter Demetz, and Velasco Vitali to stage public art interventions across the city. “We’ve always known that culture is one of the best weapons against the mafia,” said Falcone at that time.

Of the museum, Palermo mayor Roberto Lagalla added that “students and young people will be active protagonists of what we hope will become an interactive, narrative, and itinerant museum which, in addition to bringing our history to other Italian cities, proposes itself as a place of hospitality and reflection for tourists, the world of work, businesses and citizens.”

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