Danilo Dolci hunger strikes for irrigation project in Sicily, 1952


For the Sicilian government to give Trappeto emergency funds for an irrigation project

Time period notes

The campaign lasted approximately 8 days

Time period

October, 1952 to October, 1952



Location City/State/Province

Jump to case narrative


Danilo Dolci


Franco Alasia

External allies

people of Trapetto

Involvement of social elites

Sicilian Regional President, Catholic monsignor, baronness, two politicians from Christian Democratic party


Sicilian Government, Christian Democratic Party

Nonviolent responses of opponent

not known

Campaigner violence

not known

Repressive Violence

not known


Economic Justice
Human Rights



Group characterization

an Italian poet and activist

Groups in 1st Segment

Franco Alasia

Groups in 2nd Segment

people of Trapetto

Groups in 6th Segment

Sicilian Regional President
Catholic monsignor
two politicians from Christian Democratic party

Segment Length

1 1/3 day

Success in achieving specific demands/goals

6 out of 6 points


1 out of 1 points


1 out of 3 points

Total points

8 out of 10 points

Notes on outcomes

The government agreed to give Trappeto funds for an irrigation system, which is what Doci demanded in his letter to the government. Although the government never got the young and the old off of the streets, this was never one of Docli's demands. Therefore, he succeeded in his goals for his hunger strike. There was little growth to the campaign because the citizens of Trappeto failed to get involved. However, in the next two years the government began to give more relief to Trappeto.

Database Narrative

In 1952, Danilo Docli, an Italian activist, moved to Trappeto, a fishermen’s slum in Western Sicily because he wanted to move to the poorest place he had ever heard of. In October, nine months after his arrival, a child died of starvation in the impoverished town. Upon hearing the news, Dolci wrote to his friend Franco Alasia, who lived in Milan, that he was planning on fasting in protest of the poor conditions in Trappeto; Alasia immediately traveled down to Sicily to assist Dolci.

Dolci wrote a terse letter to the regional authorities demanding emergency funds for an irrigation project for Trappeto. In this letter he declared the terms of his hunger strike: he would not eat any food until the money to help the impoverished town arrived. He arranged with his friends that if he died they would take his place until the government responded to their demands.

Dolci fasted on the cot where the child had died and many Trappeto citizens visited him. The outraged citizens continually told him that they did not want him to die for them, but Dolci continued his strike.

Five days into his strike, a representative from the Sicilian government and a member of the Christian Democratic Party drove to Trappeto to urge him to stop his fast, but could not offer him assurances that the government would improve the town.

On the seventh night of the fast, Dolci’s pulse weakened and he suffered a stroke, which left his right arm and leg half-paralyzed. The doctor claimed that his heart was giving out, and that if he did not eat soon, he would surely die.

The next morning Franco Alasia rode his motorcycle to Palermo to plead with the officials. At first, Alasia could not convince the officials to care about Dolci and his cause. Once Alasia mentioned that several of Dolci’s poems had been published in a national poetry anthology they were more willing to negotiate with Dolci because they feared the publics’ critique for letting a published poet die.

Later that day, a monsignor, two Christian Democrats, a baroness, and the personal envoy of the Sicilian Regional President drove to Trappeto to offer Dolci and the citizens an offer to end his hunger strike. The government offered to help get the old and the young off of the streets, which they failed to follow through with. However, they also offered the town 1.5 million lire (about $3,000) immediately to help cover costs for irrigation, which the government did provide. Dolci conferred with the citizens, and since they were more than satisfied, he took the offer and ended his strike that afternoon.

In the subsequent two years, the authorities spent 100 million lire in relief for Trappeto. The government provided Trappeto with a pharmacy, paved streets and a sewerage system. Docli was regarded as a hero in the town and became known as “Gandhi of Sicily”.


Gandhi: his theory of nonviolence and the use of the hunger strike (1).

Future campaigns and hunger strikes by Danilo Dolci (2).


-Bess, Michael. Realism, Utopia, and the Mushroom Cloud: Four Activist Intellectuals and Their Strategies for Peace, 1945-1989 : Louise Weiss (France), Leo Szilard (USA), E.P. Thompson (England), Danilo Dolci (Italy). Chicago: University of Chicago, 1993. (p.156-186).

-Mangione, Jerre Gerlando. A Passion for Sicilians: the World around Danilo Dolci. New York: W. Morrow, 1968.(p.6-9)

-"'Nonviolence Works' Exhibition, Wrexham." UK Indymedia. Web. 24 Apr. 2011. <http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2011/01/471746.html>.

-Powers, Roger S., William B. Vogele, Christopher Kruegler, and Ronald M. McCarthy. "Dolci, Danilo" Protest, Power, and Change: an Encyclopedia of Nonviolent Action from ACT-UP to Women's Suffrage. New York: Garland Pub., 1997. (p.154-155).

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy

Nicole Vanchieri 24/04/2011