Fioravanti was born in Rovereto to a Roman family, his father was a television presenter. As a child actor, Fioravanti starred in a popular series of the 1960s, "La famiglia Benvenuti", with Enrico Maria Salerno and Valeria Valeri playing his parents roles. Fioravanti's younger brother Cristiano had joined a far right youth section aged 13, he acquired a reputation for relishing violent confrontations with leftists. According to Fioravanti, his original motivation for associating with far right militants was not political, but a desire to protect his brother. Fioravanti's parents tried get him away from the escalating violence by sending him to study in the US for a year, he returned to make his last film, which was released in 1975. In early 1977 he was charged with assault and given 40 days for possession of a pistol. Fioravanti abandoned university studies to join a paratroop unit of the Italian army; he was repeatedly punished for disciplinary infractions. After a crate of hand grenades was stolen while he was on guard duty, Fioravanti was court martialed for leaving his post and sentenced to several months in a military prison.
Mambro was the daughter of a policeman (who died in 1979), and from a relatively modest background. She met Fioravanti at a far right university club. As activists for the Italian Social Movement they were targeted by political opponents as fascists (Fioravanti himself rejected the label). In a 1997 interview Mambro said she identified with far right wing youth as underdogs who tended to be on the receiving end of violence. Some of her friends died, including a young Social Movement protester who Mambro saw being shot dead by a Carabinieri captain during disturbances that followed the Acca Larentia killings. The incident alienated Fioravanti's associates, and led to riots during which some Italian Social Movement youths shot at police. Mambro later said the experience made her decide to carry a gun although her personal involvement with Fioravanti played a major part in her taking up terrorism.
It is believed that at some point Mambro devised the name Nuclei Armati Rivoluzionari, but the group maintained an informal structure and was never formally organised.
The late seventies were a time of political violence in the form of bombings, assassinations, and street warfare between rival militant factions. Fioravanti was one of a number of teenage activists in Rome who saw the legal far right political party as betraying them though inaction in the face of attacks by political opponents and the police. Influenced by leftist movements, a large group of far right youths that included Fioravanti and his close associates moved from street-fighting to terrorism. Unlike their left wing equivalents they emphasised personal qualities like spontaneity and willingness to fight, even in a lost cause, over political objectives. Fioravanti had said "About defeat we never cared, we are a generation of losers, always on the side of the defeated." Italy was seen as a 'sick', unjust and repressive state. In a 2005 interview, Fioravanti characterized this former rationale for terrorist activities as 'total stupidity', and said 'exultation and rage' in his milieu had fed a collective delusion.
The original core members consisted of those close to Fioravanti: Franco Anselmi, magistrate's son Alessandro Alibrandi and Fioravanti's brother Cristiano. Two of the most active terrorists, Gilberto Cavallini who was a fugitive, and 17-year-old Luigi Ciavardini became part of the core group after the first armed actions. Others were the part-Eritrean George Vale and Massimo Carminati (later to become a major figure in the Italian underworld). Mambro became active in NAR violence, and romantically involved with Fioravanti, during 1979.
Fioravanti was a particular friend of Carminati and through him he was introduced to some Banda della Magliana members, including Massimo Sparti who became close to Cristiano. The anti hierarchical ethos precluded any formal leader though Fioravanti was the main organizer. He anticipated other cells would spring up spontaneously as those orientated to taking action irrespective of the consequences were drawn to emulate NAR. Fioravanti advocated small fast moving groups, as he intended the name Armed Revolutionary Nuclei was to be adopted by largely independent cells.
Fioravanti was doing military service when the first killing occurred, it is believed to have been committed by either Cristiano or Alibrandi in September 1977; a leftist militant was shot dead. The victims of Armed Revolutionary Nuclei that followed included several policemen (this was justified on the grounds of them being 'thugs and torturers'), comrades suspected of treachery, and investigating magistrates including Mario Amato. Fioravanti was 23, and Mambro 21, when warrants charged them with the Bologna massacre bombing of 2 August 1980, which killed 85 people Both Fioravanti and Mambro were convicted for the Bologna massacre.
In February 1981 police surprised members of Armed Revolutionary Nuclei as they were retrieving weapons cached in the Bacchiglione river on the outskirts of Padua. In the shooting that followed two policemen were killed and Fioravanti was badly wounded in the legs, he was arrested later the same day. His brother Cristiano was tracked down two months later through telegrams he had sent his girlfriend. He quickly collaborated to provide police with a thorough account of NAR activities, and was released under a new identity after a year. While she remained at large, Mambro played a traditional female role and tried to keep life serene for the NAR group of fugitives. She was arrested at a hospital in March 1982, after having been shot and critically wounded by police earlier that day while robbing a bank. A bystander was killed.
The bombing was quickly attributed to neofascists by the authorities; in late August 1980 the prosecutor of Bologna had ordered the arrest of 28 people on charges of subversive association, including Fioravanti (who was already a fugitive with Mambro) and far right ideologue Stefano Delle Chiaie. Delle Chiaie and his associates, Pierluigi Pagliai and Joachim Fiebelkorn were abroad, in 1982 Pagliai was fatally wounded during an attempt to bring him to Italy. Those initially detained under the arrest orders were all released over the following months.
An informer, later found to be unreliable, claimed that Delle Chiaie was involved in Bologna, and that the bombing had been commissioned by a Masonic lodge made up of Italy's government media and security services elite. In the aftermath of the bombing, Licio Gelli of Masonic lodge Propaganda Due said a conspiracy of far rightists and foreigners had carried it out. On 13 January 1981 fabricated evidence, implicating Terza Posizione along with French and German right-wing extremists was planted on a train; General Pietro Musumeci of SISMI was later charged with ordering the deception. Geli was charged with slandering the investigation into the massacre; some suspected he was deeply involved in the bombing itself. Further complicating police enquiries were allegations that Fioravanti had carried out killings for Propaganda Due.
Bologna was a prosperous stronghold of the Communist Party, it had suffered previous atrocities beginning in 1969. A widely disseminated conspiracy theory posited an alliance of corrupt politicians, secret service agents and neo-fascists using terrorism in a Strategy of tension to discredit the left. Operation Gladio, an clandestine NATO organisation that was intended to fight a Soviet conquest of Europe through an armed resistance movement was also implicated; some suspected explosives used in the Bologna bombing had been taken from Operation Gladio arms caches.
A clandestine weapons store of the Banda della Magliana was kept in the basement of a government building, the NAR had access to it and ammunition thought likely to have come from the joint arms cache was used to kill Carmine Pecorelli in 1979. In 1993, contemporaneously with his trial for Mafia association in Palermo, former Italian prime minister Giulio Andreotti along with Fioravanti's friend Massimo Carminati, were charged with the murder of Pecorelli by prosecutors in Perugia. The case was circumstantial and based on the word of Mafia turncoat Tommaso Buscetta who had not originally mentioned the allegation about Andreotti when interviewed by Giovanni Falcone Andreotti was acquitted along with his co-defendants in 1999. The prosecution successfully appealed the acquittal and there was a retrial, which in 2002 convicted Andreotti and sentenced him to 24 years imprisonment. Italians of all political allegiances denounced the conviction. The Italian supreme court finally cleared Andreotti of the murder in 2003.
In denying involvement for the Bologna massacre, Mambro later insisted that, far from being a well supplied tool of hidden forces, Armed Revolutionary Nuclei were regarded as 'snotty kids' by the established leaders of neo fascism, and the group never had access to explosives in the quantity that the Bologna bomb used. She also said that Armed Revolutionary Nuclei had never deliberately targeted ordinary people. Fioravanti has said that the 1980 Bologna train station bombing was the work of Libya, but the Italian state had been reluctant to pursue that line of enquiry because of dependence on Libya's oil, and blamed neo-fascists.
The accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty, the prosecution can appeal against verdicts. If found guilty the accused is absolutely guaranteed an appeal to a trial of the second grade, which is similar to a trial de novo where all evidence and witnesses can be re-examined Either level can be appealed by the defence or the prosecution, and the Supreme court can order a re-trial. A conviction becomes definitive only after the appeal process has been exhausted. In Italy a whole life term sentence may be considered to have been served after 20 years, if the prisoner shows "behaviour such as to provide certain evidence of reform".
The trial began in January 1987, there were 20 defendants. Both Fioravanti and Mambro pleaded guilty to responsibility for numerous murders, but denied they or their group carried out the Bologna massacre on 2 August 1980. The prosecution said that Fioravanti had admitted to crimes which demonstrated an indiscriminate ruthlessness, and that he had espoused an ideology that justified attacks similar to Bologna, as had Mambro.
The crucial evidence against Fioravanti and Mambro for the Bologna bombing was given by a witness some thought untrustworthy: small-time criminal and Banda della Magliana member Massimo Sparti. He alleged that 2 days after the blast Fioravanti had come to him to obtain false documents, and said he worried someone might recognize Mambro from the station. The testimony contained inconsistencies, and Sparti had been released from prison in 1982, ostensibly because of terminal cancer although he was still alive 15 years later.
Fioravanti's alibi for the morning of the 2 August was weakened by its lack of precision; he had initially said he was in Treviso, but subsequently asserted he had travelled with Mambro, Ciavardini and Ciavardini, on to a meeting in Padova early that day. Cristiano and another NAR member turned police collaborator, both recalled that days after the bomb Mambro had worried about being accused of the massacre, spoke of being in Padova at the time of the explosion, and expressed concern about them being believed.
Conviction and sentence
In July 1988 Fioravanti and Mambro were found guilty of responsibility for the Bologna train bombing, as well as the crimes they admitted; they were sentenced to 10 life terms plus 250 years. Massimiliano Fachini and Sergio Picciafuoco were also given life sentences for the bombing. Several NAR members were given prison sentences for being members of an illegal armed group. At the same trial Geli and General Pietro Musumeci were convicted of offences not directly related to the massacre. Delle Chiaie was acquitted of subversive association.
In 1990 an appeal acquitted all four of those convicted of responsibility for the bombing, but Fioravanti and Mambro were again prosecuted and convicted, in 1995 a final judgement by the Supreme Court confirmed their earlier convictions and sentences. After a series of separate trials, in 2007 Ciavardini was also convicted of responsibility for the Bologna bombing. Protestations of innocence from all three have won a measure of support from a range of politicians, jurists and academics.
Mambro was ostracised in prison. Fellow prisoner Anna Laura Braghetti, serving time for Red Brigades terrorism, was sympathetic and befriended her, later becoming Mambro's cellmate. In 1985 Fioravanti and Mambro were married while serving their sentences. In 1997, the Venice Film Festival debuted a documentary of Fioravanti's on Rome's Rebibbia prison, Piccoli Ergastoli ("Little Life Sentences").
Despite continuing to deny responsibility for the Bologna massacre, both were given day release from the prison. Mambro worked outside at an anti death penalty organisation from 1998; her daughter with Fioravanti was born two years later, she was conditionally released in 2002. Fioravanti was given day release from 2000, and conditionally released in 2004. The conditions ended in 2009. Fioravanti and Mambro have repudiated and expressed regret for their admitted terrorist activities; but continue to maintain they had no involvement in the Bologna station bombing.