But one of the many mysteries that surrounds the Cosa Nostra is where its killers acquire their lethal dexterity. It is known they have practiced in the Sicilian countryside. But the flat crack of a pistol, which sounds quite unlike the report of a shotgun, can swiftly attract unwelcome attention.Part of the answer to the puzzle has emerged in Palermo’s notorious Zona Espansione Nord (Zen) - a complex of housing estates on the edge of the city which was the fiefdom of the city’s top mobster, Salvatore Lo Piccolo, known as the Baron, until his arrest last year.There, 10 meters below ground in a warren of passages, police have found a firing range littered with 9 x 21 caliber ammunition - the Italian mobster’s favorite.Sara Fascina, the police commander whose officers discovered the complex, said it also seemed to have been used for hiding fugitives and providing them with an escape route in the event of a raid. “The housing blocks that make up the Zen are strongholds that are impossible to enter unobserved,” she said.The officers came across the shooting range by chance. While searching the flat of a suspected drug dealer, one officer noticed a large bunch of keys and asked what they were all for.
They found what appeared to be a shed in the courtyard, with an entrance opened by remote control. From there, they descended to an armored door beyond which was a refuge for fugitives, complete with TV, air conditioning and €7,000 (£6,000) in cash.
When another security door was forced open the police found themselves navigating some 100 meters of passageways circling the foundations of the block. At the end of the last passageway was the firing range - 10 meters long and sound-proofed.