Lucano, who led the town of Riace in Calabria until 2018, is accused of embezzlement, abuse of office, abetting illegal migration and breach of public procurement laws and other serious crimes.
He is a defendant with 26 others before a court in Locri.
He rejects all the charges.
Speaking to reporters before the opening hearing, Lucano said he did not feel like the victim of a “political trial,’’ but claimed to have “always worked for the weak and the marginalised.’’
Several pro-Lucano supporters rallied outside the courtroom, amid a heavy police presence.
They wore red T-shirts with the slogan: “Let’s stay human.’’
Under Lucano’s leadership, Riace was hailed as a model of integration as he repopulated it with hundreds of migrants who were also trained in local artisan crafts, and offered jobs and living allowances.
In October, the mayor was suspended and temporarily placed under house arrest.
Prosecutors accused him of organising fake marriages to help migrants win legal residency and illegitimately giving a trash collection contract to a migrants’ cooperative.
In a further setback, in May the town elected a new mayor supported by the far-right League, while Lucano failed to be elected to the city council.
The former mayor is no longer allowed to reside in Riace due to the accusations against him.