“You can come, but if you leave, there’s no coming back.” This is one of the countless half-truths typical of Vincenzo Muccioli, the charismatic founder of San Patrignano, a rehab center in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region that’s been around since the 1970s. It’s a half-truth because, for the most part, San Patrignano guests were not actually allowed to leave. It’s also the type of thing Muccioli is caught saying over and over again in SanPa: Sins of the Savior, Netflix’s first original Italian docuseries, which tracks the rise and precipitous fall of this larger-than-life personality.
Muccioli founded San Patrignano in the midst of Italy’s heroin crisis, and as the state became increasingly helpless in combating it, Muccioli became a sort of chosen figure. He seemed to be the only person with a solution to the drug epidemic, one that traded psychotropic pills for a community and a trade—cooking, mechanics, wine production, medicine.