When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch

Version:1.0 StartHTML:0000000198 EndHTML:0000010197 StartFragment:0000002583 EndFragment:0000010161 SourceURL:file://localhost/Users/jef_israely/Dropbox/Articles/Italian%20Luggage%20Story.doc

A new life for abandoned baggage

"Gabbianella" volunteers distribute goods to the most needy

In Naples, they found a complete doctor's bag, the type used for home visits, with a blood pressure gauge, a stethoscope and all the rest. In Verona, along the same lines, a complete set of clinical records that "took who knows how long to put together." In Milan, the city of shopping, a suitcase that contained two brand new Chanel bags and a barely-used pair of Church shoes, all accompanied by receipts and guarantees: 1,550 euros for each bag and 528 euros for the shoes. And even a rather curious ‘party set," including plastic phalluses and latex lingerie.

It is strange what people forget in the suitcases they entrust to luggage services but never pick up. The good news is that these objects are now being offered a new life for humanitarian purposes after the Italian rail station company, Grandi Stazioni Spa, prompted by a just completed restructuring project, decided to clear out all the unclaimed bags. The company appointed the social welfare organization "La Gabbianella" to put the abandoned articles to good use by distributing them through a network of about 40 local non-profits.

Mariella Bucalossi, a Gabbianella volunteer and one of the coordinators of the project, underlined its complexity. "Just taking Rome's Termini station alone, we are talking about 2,600 items, including backpacks, packages and various shoulder bags," she said. In Rome, we have already completed the processing of two lots of bags – 548 of the total of 2,600 – distributing them to the Torvajanica charity and to the non-profit Erythros that deals with the rights and defense of foreigners." Likewise, the project has had success in Bologna, Milan, Florence, Naples, Venice and Verona, while Turin, Genoa, Bari and Palermo are about to start the process.

Things that are immediately reusable are distributed to people who need them. The other objects are sold in tag sales. Even the suitcases end being reused. "Do you know how many it takes to send the stuff to our street children in the Ivory Coast and Mozambique?" explains Riccardo Mabilia, a missionary from the Villaregia di Nola community who has emptied the deposit at Naples' central station. "Each summer ten or twelve volunteers go to Nairobi, each with one of these suitcases, filled with 20kg of supplies. Much of this is clothes, but there are also products for hygiene and personal cleanliness.

The only problem is caused by damaged bags, some of which, as Ernesto Chiesa of the La Goccia association in Milan described, have been "destroyed by mice, because they were abandoned who knows how long ago. We have had to throw away more than 500 items. The volunteers didn't even want to risk touching them."

La Goccia also works with unclaimed bags at Malpensa airport, where authorities take abandoned luggage very seriously. Since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the mere idea of unattended baggage in a crowded place causes considerable fear. "And in fact, before donating them for reuse, the railway police have to check them," said Bucalossi.

Sometimes the most suspect bags end up containing the most valuable goods. Massimo Paglialunga, in charge of coordination for the Grandi Stazioni, recalls that "according to the contract that regulates left luggage, bags are considered abandoned after 60 days. To be on the safe side, we wait a little longer: between six and 12 months, because sometimes someone realizes and asks for everything to be sent. Once the bag has technically passed into the ownership of Grandi Stazioni, the bag will be checked, transferred to a dedicated deposit, a type of closed archive, and then donated to the non-profit groups."

The system works well all around, although it's still not clear where those lingerie sets and sex toys ended up. Are they also dutifully recycled? "Joking aside," said Ernesto Chiesa, "we have destroyed them all: we do have a sense of morality."


You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.


The Last Boss: Messina Denaro's Death Marks The End Of An Era For The Sicilian Mafia

Eight months after being arrested, following 30 years on the run, Matteo Messina Denaro died Monday. The son of a mobster and successor of Sicily's notorious boss of bosses, he had tried to transform Cosa Nostra into a modern criminal enterprise — with only partial success.

photo of Matteo Messina Denaro

Matteo Messina Denaro after his arrest

Carabinieri handout via ZUMA
La Stampa Staff

Updated Sep. 25, 2023 at 4:45 p.m.


PALERMO — Matteo Messina Denaro, who for more than a decade was the Sicilian Mafia's "boss of bosses," died on Monday in an Italian hospital prison ward. His death came eight months after being captured following decades on the run as a fugitive from justice. His arrest in January 15, 1993, came almost 30 years to the day after Totò Riina, then the undisputed head of the Corleone clan, was captured in Palermo.

Tracing back in time, Messina Denaro began his criminal ascent in 1989, around the first time on record that he was reported for mob association for his participation in the feud between the Accardo and Ingoglia clans.

At the time, Messina Denaro's father, 'don Ciccio', was the Mafia boss in the western Sicilian city of Trapani — and at only 20 years of age, the ambitious young criminal became Totò Riina's protégé. He would go on to help transform Cosa Nostra, tearing it away from the feudal tradition and catapulting it into the world of would-be legitimate business affairs.

For 30 years he managed to evade capture. He had chosen the path of ‘essential communication’: a few short pizzini - small slips of paper used by the Sicilian Mafia for high-level communications - without compromising information by telephone or digital means.

“Never write the name of the person you are addressing," Messina Denaro told his underlings. "Don’t talk in cars because there could be bugs, always discuss in the open and away from telephones. Also, take off your watches.”

Keep reading...Show less

The latest