Tuesday 23 November 2021
The release this week of a new film about the murder of fashion house boss Maurizio Gucci, like Ridley Scott’s previous movie on the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III, took me back to a story I covered while at Reuters in Rome.
In 2013, photographer Alessandro Bianchi and I travelled to a prison on the island of Gorgona off the Tuscan coast, where the 700-year-old Frescobaldi dynasty was producing an upmarket crisp white wine as part of a prisoner rehabilitation project.
The island is the smallest in an archipelago including Elba, where Napoleon was incarcerated, and Monte Cristo, where the book by Alexandre Dumas is set.
Nobody has ever escaped from Gorgona, named after monstrous sisters in Greek mythology with snakes for hair, except for one man thought to have drowned. But it is a sought-after prison because the around 40 inmates, many convicted of some of Italy’s most notorious murders, are allowed to roam freely in the daytime and work on agricultural projects including the vineyard.
Among the prisoners we interviewed were two brawny inmates caring for vines on a sunny hillside, a slight Chinese immigrant tending a large vegetable nursery, and a dapper man working in the dairy. Disconcertingly, he waved a large knife in our faces as he told us about his sheep and cow’s milk cheeses, including a delicious ricotta.
Prison authorities said we were not allowed to ask what the prisoners had done although we did establish the names of some of them. On the train back to Rome, Alessandro checked them out on Google and what he discovered gave us pause for thought.
The gentle Chinese man had murdered his wife, one of the men in the vineyard and his brother killed their mother over money, and the man with the knife? He was the hitman hired to shoot Gucci by his divorced wife Patrizia - played by Lady Gaga in the new film.
But the wine was delicious… ■