Burnt coffins 'fuel Naples pizza ovens'

Investigators believe some pizza restaurants in Naples are using wood from stolen coffins to bake their famous pizzas.

The southern city's favourite dish is said to rely on smoke from wood-fired stoves for its celebrated flavour.

But police think many restaurant owners across the notoriously lawless port are purchasing cut-price wood from a gang of coffin thieves operating in the city.

"A real suspicion hangs over pizza, one of the few remaining important symbols of the city, that it could be cooked with wood coffins," said Il Giornale, the daily paper which belongs to the family of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. "Not only the pizza, the bread, too, may have been cooked with the wood."

Naples prosecutor Giovandomenico Lepore is leading an investigation into the suspected racket.

Andrea Santoro, president of the city's cemetery commission, said: "It's no wonder these things are happening given the state of the cemeteries. There are graves uncovered, thefts and vandalism."

Il Giornale even claimed, without citing evidence, that there was now "a daily spectacle of uncovered coffins and human remains abandoned in the streets as if they were garbage".

Two years ago the city made headlines worldwide, again for the wrong reasons, when a refuse collection crisis saw tens of thousands of tonnes of stinking rubbish pile up on its streets.