Salvatore Giuliano: The Robin Hood of Sicily

Salvatore Giuliano was a legendary figure in Sicilian history. Born in 1922 in the Sicilian mountain town of Montelepre, he is seen by many as the ‘Robin Hood of Sicily.’ Like the historical character, Giuliano did indeed steal from the rich and give to the poor and assisted his countrymen during the harsh times of World War II.

Salvatore Giuliano was a handsome, fearless and charismatic young man, admired and respected by his fellow Sicilians. His ideals surrounding Sicily and its hopeful independence from Italy were viewed as patriotic – however, he was also considered a murderer, though many claimed that he killed only when he had to.

Born a Sicilian peasant, his outlaw career began at the young age of 20. He was transporting black-market grain to give to the poor and was stopped by the caribinieri. During the encounter, he shot one of the officers. While running away, he dropped his identity card and was shot during his failed attempt to retrieve it. With no doubt about who the assailant was, Giuliano began his life on the run.

For the next seven years he was hunted relentlessly by the state police until his eventual death in 1950. During that time he became a legend.

Following his early encounter with the caribinieri, he put together a gang of about 50 bandits, criminals and homeless men in the Sagana Mountains. Under his leadership they became excellent marksmen and took to burglary to make money for food and weapons. Giuliano’s objective was to attack the present government in the name of the EVIS (Esercito Volontario per I’Indipendenza della Sicilia) movement. The EVIS promised him that he would be pardoned of his crimes and appointed to a position in the newly developed independent state.

Giuliano launched attacks on Italian government authorities and remained a problem for them for years to come. The Sicilian peasants, however, admired him and viewed him as a sort of Robin Hood because he was known for giving food and money to the poor.

Anyone who crossed him was swiftly executed. If the person was a known informer he was duly executed and had a note pinned on him sending a message to any would-be future informants.

When funds became limited, Giuliano and his gang of bandits took to kidnapping. He demanded ransom for prominent figures who would be returned after sizeable amounts of cash was paid. Giuliano never kidnapped children, but did not hesitate to abduct a rich duke or prince. He was said to have treated his victims in a gentlemanly manner, giving them adequate housing, food and even entertainment, all of which added to his Robin Hood appeal.

Giuliano’s main goal was for Sicily to become not only an independent entity, but an annexed state within the United States. He wrote two letters to then President Harry S. Truman (duly documented) asking for this consideration. He fought communism so that his dream of achieving affiliations with America would not be compromised.

There was one legendary attack that linked Giuliano to the slaughter of innocent people, forever tarnishing his reputation. During a May Day celebration for the recent communist advances in western Sicily, 17 people were shot and killed. Giuliano maintained that his intentions were to fire over the heads of the crowd and not to kill the innocent, but that is not what occurred. After this incident, his reputation diminished among the people and he became the subject of controversy.

In 1950, as Giuliano was planning to flee Sicily, he was shot and killed. The official story said that he was killed in a street battle by the soldiers of a special task force. Later, Salvatore Giuliano’s trusted aid and friend, Gaspare Pisciotta confessed to having betrayed and shot Giuliano in the back. His body was then laid out in the street and made to look as if a street battle had taken place. The official story was never retracted.

Salvatore Giuliano died at the young age of 27. He was an idealistic youth who had great dreams of independence for his homeland of Sicily. Some argue that he was an outlaw, bandit and ruthless killer, while others claim he was a charitable man who fought only for the good of his country. Though some may debate his place in history, all can agree that Salvatore Giuliano is a legendary and memorable Sicilian figure.

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