I encountered scarface after a nice day out. Being intimidated is never nice, but unfortunately, it sometimes happens and it is mostly related to finding somewhere to park. In recent years, more and more blue lines have appeared on city streets which means you have to pay to park there. However, parking after 8pm and on Sundays or holidays is usually free. That is unless you encounter an unofficial parking attendant or a ‘parcheggiatore abusivo’. This can happen anywhere, regardless as to whether there are blue lines or not. A man, usually scruffy looking, appears and pretends to show you to a space even though you found it yourself. He then demands some protection money for looking after your car. Usually 50 cents or a Euro is what is expected.
Some people pay. I don’t and here is why I don’t think you should either: it is a form of pizzo (protection money) and if you go along and pay you are encouraging this ‘mafia like’ behaviour. Never mind the fact that there is never anyone around when you return to your car. Yes, you take a risk if you don’t pay. Lately, I have read about people having their cars keyed and having been spat at for not paying. My partner and I have been threatened, the ‘I’m going to kill you sign of the thumb being drawn diagonally from the cheekbone to the chin’ gesture, or they have kicked or punched the car as we drive to park elsewhere. Usually, I speak in English and act as if I have no idea what they are talking about. It works to an extent. However, in Noto, it didn’t. They get plenty of tourists there so these criminals have obviously picked up an English word or two. It is not good for tourism.
This particular guy, ‘Scarface’, came right up to me and asked for some money. He had a big scar on his forehead that looked like it was a burn of some sort. He was standing closer than they normally do and touching the car as he spoke. His menacing expression was clear. I pretended to ignore him at first and spoke to my friends in English. As soon as he understood I was British, he started to say ‘You pay me for protect car’ in a threatening manner. I then chose to speak in Italian. Taking out my phone and saying the word ‘polizia’ whilst simultaneously trying to take a picture of him was enough for him to start walking away. Not before he had called me a prostitute and had made some other threat. In the end, I hadn’t managed to take a photo. I was slightly nervous about leaving the car but reluctant to give in to intimidation. Then I spotted the police driving around the town so I felt a little bit safer and went around Noto, enjoying the sunset before returning to the car which was in one piece without its tyres slashed or the bodywork keyed, phew!. It’s a pity that this happens. We don’t have a new car so a little scratch wouldn’t bother me but the feeling you get when one of these people comes up to you isn’t nice. I just hope it doesn’t happen to any tourists as tourism in Sicily is picking up and it would be a shame for anything to spoil that.