NAPLES, Italy (Reuters) - Bulldozers started work on Thursday demolishing a crime-riddled, crumbling housing estate on the outskirts of Naples, notorious for its links to the local mafia.
Mechanical diggers ripped into the facade of one of the concrete tower blocks, shaped like a gigantic sailboat, in the Scampia neighbourhood that was a nerve centre of Italy's illegal drug trade and inspired the 2014 hit TV series "Gomorrah".
The housing project, known as the "Sails of Scampia", was built in the 1960s and 1970s and became synonymous with poverty and violence in Italy's underdeveloped south as clan warfare raged through its narrow corridors and bleak stairways.
"Hopefully we will now be given a future, we always want things to improve for our children," said Vincenzo Montagna, who has lived in the area for 40 years. "We want to work here in Scampia, 80% of us are honest," he said.
Looking to highlight the plight of the isolated suburb, Pope Francis visited the area in 2015, urging the Naples mafia, the Camorra, to "convert to love and justice and return to honesty."
Three of the original towers were torn down almost 20 years ago, leaving four structures intact. City authorities have now decided to raze three more blocks, leaving just one, for posterity, which will be turned into public offices.
The demolished areas will undergo urban regeneration, with parks, schools and low-rise housing planned.
But not everyone was happy to see the brutalist buildings ripped down.
"I am really sad," said Vittoria Esposito, who teaches in a local school. "The kids see the Sails as people. It is like they are losing an old friend. They are aware of the problems ... but they see this as a funeral."
(Reporting by Reuters TV; Writing by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Helen Popper)