Specifically, the Camorra were a secret organization in Naples, Italy, engaged in criminal activities, mostly during the 19th century. The equivalent of the Sicilian La Cosa Nostra, but reportedly less formally organized, more distributed and chaotic. The Bourbon rulers of Naples may have also used them as an unofficial secret police that provided thug-for-hire services to quell opposition.

Reputedly, new camorristas were accepted provisionally for a year, and then could not become official members (a Made Man in gangster movie terms) until they had committed a murder for the Camorra.

Most reports suggest that the Camorra came to Naples from Spain, when the Spanish took Naples in the sixteenth century. The Spanish Garduna then became the Camorra.

The camorra still exist, to some extent, as modern organized crime families in Naples. They were very active as heroin smugglers for the Sicilian Mafia in the 1970's and may have sigificant ties to the Russian mob today

The word camorra can be used also to signify any secret group united for unscrupulous purposes.


Although the locals don't like to talk about it, the camorra has a very strong presence just outside of Napoli, in the cities of Aversa and Caserta. They're also unusually active in the little flyspeck towns of Casal di Principe, San Cipriano di Aversa and Villa Literno, for reasons which baffle me.

Living in these areas one doesn't think about it too much usually, because the camorristas ususally aren't overtly hostile to people who are neutral in their politics. Indeed, they may even offer a certain measure of protection as they DO NOT like other thieves and ne'er-do-wells pissing in their pool, as it were. That said, it's not uncommon to get run off the roads by mobsters running from the Carabinieri, and once in a great while people get caught up in the crossfire between warring factions. This can take the form of literal crossfire, or random bombings (rare), vandalism (common) or sometimes general harassment.

Possibly the most noteworthy thing about them, though, is their very persistence. For every one the cops manage to bust, two more come out of the woodwork to replace them.

Ca*mor"ra (?), n. [It.]

A secret organization formed at Naples, Italy, early in the 19th century, and used partly for political ends and partly for practicing extortion, violence, etc. -- Ca*mor"rist (#), n.


© Webster 1913

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