Is Gomorrah Based on a True Story?

‘Gomorrah’ is an Italian crime drama series that tells the story of the Savastano mafia clan based in the Scampia neighborhood of Naples. The family is headed by Pietro Savastano, of which Ciro Di Marzio is a member. Ciro tries to traverse the dangers of criminal life where the crime syndicate Camorra is embroiled in a brutal civil war. The rival crime boss Salvatore Conte is constantly tussling with the Savastano Family members for territorial gains.

The series is a gritty take on Italy’s mafia underworld and portrays a harrowing picture of merciless killings and power-hungry mobsters driven by greed. Depicting internal conflicts within the clan between the ‘old guard’ and the new members, ‘Gomorrah’ is a realistic take on the Italian mafia’s sinister underbelly. The stark and brutal scenes of ‘Gomorrah’ depict the Italian society’s inherent class structure manipulated by the mafia. The authentic feel of the narrative got us curious about the story, and we decided to delve into it. Here’s what we found.

Is Gomorrah Based on a True Story?

Yes, ‘Gomorrah’ is based on a true story. The series is created by Roberto Saviano, an investigative journalist, who published the book ‘Gomorrah: Italy’s Other Mafia’ on which the series is based. Saviano’s investigative reports on the Camorra mafia syndicate and their real-life crimes constitute the book’s narrative. The first-time author spent five years researching for his book. To gain more insights, he worked undercover at a mob-owned construction site and even waited tables at a mafia wedding.

The series is inspired by real-life happenings and tells a real story of Naples’ mafia gangs. Saviano had infiltrated through the workings of the Camorra syndicate by painstakingly collecting reports from real-life crime scenes, accessing telephone records and courtroom transcripts. He connected the dots and interweaved a story of the Camorra syndicate. The narrative space between the real facts provided some scope of changes for the characters of the show. The Savastano family is a fictional creation, although inspired by the exploits of the Casalesi clan, originally founded in the 1980s by Antonio Bardellino.

The Casalesi controlled the Camorra syndicate, and their control was spread from Naples to Rome. They operated a fish import-export business, which acted as a front for smuggling heroin and cocaine from South America. When Bardelloni disappeared mysteriously, Francesco Schiavone took control of the family. These stories inspire the plot of ‘Gomorrah,’ and interestingly, the show’s dialogues are based on real-life phone calls of the Camorra syndicate intercepted by the authorities. Even though the characters’ names have been changed, the credibility of the event remains true to their origins.

Upon the release of the book, Saviano thought that it would sell no more than 10,000 copies. In a matter of time, the book became a bestseller, which brought him into the limelight. In 2008, the book was adapted into a film called ‘Gomorrah’ helmed by Matteo Garrone. But this newfound fame had dangerous repercussions for Saviano. He started receiving death threats from the mafia, upon which the Italian authorities assigned bodyguards for him.

During the infamous ‘Spartacus Trial’ in which 24 members of the Casalesi family were tried for murder, extortion, and rigging elections – Saviano was openly indicted by the mob bosses’ lawyer for his role in their arrests. This decade-long trial saw multiple murders being committed, and journalists and judges were intimidated. According to Saviano, free speech was trampled upon, and at the end of the trial, the bosses, Antonio Iovine and Francesco Bidognetti were acquitted. Surprisingly, their lawyer was convicted of issuing ‘mafia-style threats.’

As propagated by masters like Vittorio De Sica and Roberto Rossellini, Italian neo-realism runs through the visual narrative of ‘Gomorrah.’ Distinctively different from the Mafia films and shows like ‘The Godfather’ and ‘The Sopranos,’ ‘Gomorrah’ portrays an unflinching story drawn from the core of the Italian society. The difference between the gangsters’ lavish life and poverty-stricken surroundings in their territory is symbolic of the class struggles amidst fear of violence.

Roberto Saviano’s life changed drastically after writing the book, but his rage led him to create this masterpiece. He said, “I decided to write this because they were incredibly gripping stories, and I found myself to be part of them. But I also had a huge rage inside. I had a desire for vendetta, in the true sense of the term, against an extremely ferocious world that involves everybody — from the doctor to the local police officer, from the postman to the naïve professor. Just by keeping quiet, we’re all part of this mechanism that I wanted to expose. That’s why I wrote Gomorrah.”

Read More: Where Is Gomorrah Filmed?