Private funeral held for Italian author Camilleri

The late Italian author Andrea Camilleri

A private funeral was held in Rome on Thursday for Italian author Andrea Camilleri, who earned worldwide acclaim for his series of whodunnits featuring inspector Salvo Montalbano.

Friends and relatives gathered for the intimate ceremony at Rome's Protestant Cemetery, where many famed artists and poets are buried, including Percy Shelley and John Keats.

"Here you will have friends to talk to," the author's daughter Andreina Camilleri said in front of her father's flower-covered grave.

The celebrated author died at the age of 93 in Rome on Wednesday after a period of intensive care.

Despite being a private ceremony, several hundred well-wishers were allowed to enter the cemetery in small groups to pay tribute to the author.

Some brought flowers while others left messages of condolence.

News of Camilleri's death sparked a outpouring of tributes for the politically-engaged author, who never shied away from criticising those in power.

At the ceremony on Thursday, Italian Culture Minister Alberto Bonisoli said "we will miss the intellectual, the free person who spoke freely, who said things that pleased and did not please".

Also a theatre and television director and scriptwriter, Camilleri became a novelist later in life, publishing his first book at the age of 57.

He would go on to sell some 20 million books in Italy, and publish 30-odd novels featuring Montalbano which were translated into about 30 languages.

Camilleri is reported by Italian media to have given the last novel in the detective series to his editor in 2006, with instructions that it be published only after his death.

It is not known how the novel wraps up the tale of the gruff but straight-arrow Montalbano, or the police colleagues who help him uncover truths in a murky world of Mafia alliances, omerta, prostitution and drugs.