The head of a pig has been delivered to the home of an Italian government minister in an act of intimidation reminiscent of The Godfather movie.

Neighbours of Vincenzo De Luca, Italy's deputy minister for transport, found the severed pig's head on top of a mailbox in the hallway of the politician's condo in the coastal town of Salerno, near Naples.

The 64-year-old, who is also the town's long-serving mayor, was not at home when police were called but laughed off the incident when he was told.

"Thanks for your love. I'm really thankful for the gastronomic present although it's a bit heavy," he quipped on Twitter.

Police have opened an investigation.

"Pigs symbolise baseness," Marcello Ravveduto, a researcher with Salerno University, told IBTimes UK.

A lemon had been stuffed into the mouth of the pig and that symbolised greed, Ravveduto said.

The incident recalled one of Hollywood's most famous scenes. In Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather, a movie producer wakes up to find the severed head of his favourite racehorse in his bed after he turned down a request by Don Vito Corleone (played by Marlon Brando).

Ravveduto was doubtful that the local mob in Salerno, the Camorra, was responsible for the delivery to De Luca.

"It might be the act of a single person who felt personally damaged by the mayor," Ravveduto said.

"The mafia's style of action has significantly changed from its original folkloristic image and is now more business-oriented. If Camorra wanted to pressurisee De Luca they would have sent him two men in double-breasted suits."

A flamboyant character, De Luca, who runs a weekly one-man show on the local Lira Television, was recently placed under investigation by police over two separate cases of corruption and abuse of power related to his mayoral office.

The leftwinger and ally of prime minister Enrico Letta remains a hugely popular figure in Salerno, where he was elected mayor for a fourth term with almost 75% of the vote in 2011.