Asoc Stories

A confiscated property turned public good in Noha (LE) thanks to secondary-school students


Since 2017, the association Levèra, an ARCI affiliate, has been managing a property sequestered from organised crime in Noha, in the Salento municipality of Galatina. The property was refurbished thanks to cohesion policy funding within the scope of a project that was completed in 2012. Those intervening five years from completion of the project to being entrusted to Levèra are a measure of the difficulty in transforming a property once owned by the Coluccia crime family into a public good. “The property was inspected in 2013. Since then, however, it remained closed until those secondary-school students went in with their video cameras to make a clip that featured those rooms and spaces,” said Roberta Viva, vice president of Levèra.

The students to which she refers are the members of the team We Are For Legality, students at Antonio Vallone Secondary School in Galatina, in the province of Lecce, who took part in the project A Scuola di OpenCoesione (ASOC) during the 2016-2017 school year. “When I talked with them at the start of the educational programme, I sought to guide them towards a nearby project, and Noha is a part of Galatina. In particular, I felt it was important to make my students aware of the value of the property, not only financially but also symbolically,” said Sebastiano Zenobini, who teaches Italian and Latin and assisted the team throughout their research. 

“Bringing that project to completion, with assignment of the property, was not only a matter of pride but also of the law. I can’t deny that there were challenges. In class, there were also students from Noha, where the Coluccia family has its roots, and this made things a bit difficult for them. When the team went out in the field, the students from there actually preferred not to show themselves,” Zenobini added.

Francesca Durante (20), one of the students on the team who now studies Medicine at university, actually toyed with the idea of studying Law after taking part in the project with We Are For Legality. “Our work with the sequestered property in Noha opened my eyes to the realities of organised crime,” she said. “Before we decided to take a look at it, nobody in Galatina was talking about that property. In one way or another, the family from which it had been confiscated had created jobs for a lot of people, and that created a very heavy climate around the issue. It was extremely hard to conduct the interviews.” 

What particularly impressed the team was the size of the property. “None of us had thought it was so big, even though we had seen the blueprints in the town hall.


Plus, when we went there, everything was new, refurbished. I don’t know why we expected a sequestered property to be like a beat-up shack,” the young We Are For Legality team member continued. What completely changed the students’ perception of the climate surrounding the property was the fear of speaking out. “I didn’t think it would be so bad. There were people who pretended not to hear the questions. Others would be evasive with their answers,” Francesca concluded. 

Galatina held elections for town council in 2017. “The students invited every mayoral candidate to the concluding event of the ASOC programme. There was even the public prosecutor for organised crime. They all called for the students’ commitment to helping bring the project to a successful conclusion, so that management of the property could be assigned,” Zenobini noted. 

Twenty years had passed from when the property was sequestered from the crime family in 1999 to when it was entrusted to ARCI. Having been given to the City of Galatina in 2001, the property was refurbished from 2011 to 2012, financed within the scope of the NOP Safety under the 2007-2013 programming cycle. “The project was carried out by Brizio Montinaro, architect and brother to one of the bodyguards to Italian judge Giovanni Falcone, who was assassinated by the Corleone crime family in 1992,” Roberta Viva recounted. It is after that brother, Antonio, that the property has been named

Levèra, the association that was granted management of the property in 2017, was founded by a group of friends who worked in the social sector. The association now has about 200 members and provides a wide range of services out of the property.

“On the ground floor, there is ARCI. Upstairs, there are rooms for music lessons (in a rehearsal hall) and for sewing workshops, and there are also courses for videography and street art funded by the Region and offered free of charge for students, in collaboration with another local association, Sensi comuni chilometro zero. We are working to start up a fashion design studio in collaboration with Made in Carcere,” said Roberta Viva. “Before the pandemic, we had started a theatre programme in a hall with a 60-70 person capacity that was always sold out.” 

Another space is dedicated to an after-school programme provided in collaboration with the heads of the area’s schools, which serves students experiencing difficulties at home or with their studies. “They come to us for a couple of hours in the afternoon to do homework.

The programme is made possible by volunteer teachers,” Viva underscored. These volunteers also include teachers from Vallone Secondary School in Galatina. Finally, the facility is also home to a laboratory for the Italian alliance against cancer, LILT (Lega Italiana per la Lotta contro i Tumori). 

“We went to that place seeing it as something for everyone, not for us. The logo we selected for our association is a tornado, a spiral, because the initiative came about with the intention of being a wind of change that could redevelop the property,” Viva concluded. The name “Levèra” comes from the Italian “levare”, meaning “to lift”, as if by the wind — a wind of change that blows even here in Noha.


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