Residents of a village in southern Italy have stirred outrage after they gathered outside the house of a mafia boss to pay their respects as he was being arrested after 23 years on the run.

Police found Giuseppe "the Goat" Giorgi during a search in his house in San Luca, a village in the southern region of Calabria, on Friday (2 June) morning, Corriere della Sera reported.

The 56-year-old man, one of the five most dangerous fugitive criminals in Italy, complimented authorities for finding him.

Giorgi, who was unarmed at the time of the arrest, kissed his two daughters before leaving his house, escorted by the police.

His journey to a prison facility in Reggio Calabria was briefly interrupted by a group of men and boys who saluted him and kissed his hand outside his home in the mountain village of San Luca.

The public prosecutor in Reggio Calabria, Federico Cafiero de Raho deemed the hand kissing as "ignoble", news agency Ansa reported.

De Raho then praised security forces for having shown "extraordinary strength". "Carabinieri (national gendarmerie) hugging each other after the arrest represents the most beautiful part of a state that is efficient and able to arrest a fugitive," he added.

Police found Giorgi in a bunker he accessed through a scrolling door above a fireplace in his kitchen.

At the time of the arrest, authorities also discovered 156.900 euro (£137,177; $176,865)in sealed plastic bags hidden behind a wall.

Giorgi belongs to the clan Romeo, part of the Calabria-based mafia known as 'Ndrangheta. He is facing a 28-year-jail sentence for arms and drug trafficking.

He had been a fugitive since 1994, after he managed to escape a police operation known as"Sorgente", part of a crack down on drug trafficking in several regions across Italy.

Francesco Fonti, an ex-mafia member who is now an informer for the police, accused Giorgi of toxic waste dumping in the Mediterranean sea. Fonti claimed Giorgi was responsible for the sinking of ships carrying toxic waste.