Soldier and patriot born in Palermo, Corrao was of a humble origins caulker in the port of Palermo. Corrao was a key protagonist of the Sicilian revolution of 1848, one of the promoters of the revolt in Palermo and a strenuous fighter against the Bourbons in Messina. When the Bourbons defeated the rebellion, Corrao was first confined in Ustica (1852), then in Messina (1855) and finally exiled in Genoa and Turin.
In 1858, he struck a strong correspondence relationship with Rosolino Pilo with whom, in 1860, he organized an expedition in Sicily. The expedition had the consent of Francesco Crispi (later 11th Prime Minister of Italy) and the promise of Garibaldi to intervene in case of success. On the night between the 9th and the 10th of April 1860, Corrao and Pilo landed in Messina and went to Palermo to organize a thousand volunteers waiting for the promised arrival of Giuseppe Garibaldi.
When Garibaldi landed in Marsala, Corrao was ordered by Garibaldi to make a diversion with its volunteers. His army was attacked by the Bourbon troops and Pilo fell in combat. Corrao then withdrew the remaining volunteers to Montelepre and attacked Palermo from the opposite side from the one of Garibaldi’s troops. Appointed by Garibaldi as Colonel of the southern army, Corrao later became General of the Sicilian Brigade.
After the unification of Italy, Corrao became Colonel for the Royal Army. He soon resigned in line with his aversion to the government’s policy towards Sicily, followed Garibaldi in Aspromonte with his Sicilian volunteers, and finally returned to Palermo where he was assassinated in an ambush on the outskirts of Palermo. The crime has remained unpunished, but in the acts of investigation, for the first time in the history of the Kingdom of Italy, the term “Mafia” was used. Corrao is buried in the cloister of the church of San Domenico in Palermo together with many other famous sicilians.
1. Wikipedia, https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giovanni_Corrao
2. Treccani, http://www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/giovanni-corrao_(Dizionario-Biografico)/