"He has been pilloried by the media," he said. "Humanly speaking, they have killed him. It's a shame. There are so many dead already, why do we want another?"
Mr Schettino was released from custody on Tuesday night and placed under house arrest. He was driven 450 miles from Grosseto jail to Meta with a police escort and bundled into the £175,000 home he shares with his wife, Fabiola and 15-year-old daughter Rossella, in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
The steep, winding cobbled streets have since become crowded with police officers and camera crews jostling for a glimpse of the man dubbed "Captain Coward" by furious Italians.
The family is well-known and equally well respected in Meta, where Schettino's father Luigi moved at an early age.
The captain and his brother, Salvatore, grew up looking out to sea and both chose to follow careers as seafarers.
Many local residents acknowledged that Schettino, 52, may have made a mistake in sailing too close to the shore but claimed that he alone could not be held responsible for the disaster and that he had been made a scapegoat.
One, who did not wish to be identified, said: "Anyone who knows Franco knows that he is a great, great sailor, a great commander and a loyal employee. He is a professional man and would never knowingly have put the lives of his passengers in danger."
Another said: "He is a very good person, I have known him and his family for generations and they are highly respected mariners. It is easy to condemn him amid this wave of emotion but he is a person whom we all respect. It is a difficult time for the whole community."
Franco Amato, a captain who worked with Schettino at ferry company Tirrenia, said: "We grew up together and everyone in the village realised how good he was. He was the best among all of us and has had a wonderful career. He has been shaken by this tragedy."
Clara di Falco, a retired teacher and close friend of the family, said: "I feel for him but there are many victims of this tragedy and I am sure their families believe he should be in jail rather than enjoying the comforts of home."