The Godfather trilogy is undoubtedly one of the most famous, most quoted, and most re-run movie sagas of the 20th century. Drawn from the delectable imagination of Mario Puzo and his 1972 novel, and directed by Francis Ford Coppola, the film is today a cult classic. Depicting the tale of the family Corleone, and earning Marlon Brando an Oscar for the role of the Godfather himself, the story draws many a tourist to the colorful island of Sicily even decades later.
If you are travelling to Sicily this year, and you are a fan of the fictional underworld’s most famous family, make sure to visit some of these iconic spots.
The town of Corleone is situated about 60 kilometers form Palermo, near the Rocca Di Maschi. However, this is not where the Corleone movie scenes were actually shot, as the town is today much more developed than it was in the middle of the 20th century.
Historically, Corleone has been home to many members of the Cosa Nostra and the Corelonessi clan. There have been 153 violent deaths in the town between 1944 and 1948. In fact, the head of the fictional Corleone family, Vito, is said to be based on a real life mobster, called Carlo Gambino. Another famous mafia leader, Salvatore Riina, is also from Corleone.
If you wish to stroll around town, in the absence of any Godfather related movie sites, make sure to visit the two churches – the San Martino and the Santa Rosalia.
One of the villages Coppola used as the setting for his 1940s Sicily is Forza D’Agro, located atop a steep mountain road. The name of the village literally translates to strength in agriculture, providing valuable insight into the lives of Sicilians of old. It is dominated by a castle, from which you have breathtaking views of the Messina and towards Taormina.
The village church, Sant’ Agostino is featured in the second movie, in the scene in which young Vito Corleone escapes from Don Ciccio’s men. Some of the scenes from the third movie were also filmed in Forza D’Agro.
Other than the castle, there is not much to see in the village – the church is not in an enviable state, and there are only a few bars and a single restaurant.
Savoca will be recognized by fans of the film immediately. It is located about 20 kilometers from Taormina, a quaint hillside village with spectacular views of the sea. These views were however carefully kept out of the movie, as the true Corleone is nowhere near the sea.
One of the most famous sites in Savoca is the Bar Vitelli, located at the center of this small town. Today it hosts a gallery of movie memorabilia and several photos takes during filming. It has not changed at all since the shoot, and the beaded curtains behind which Apollonia’s father retreated still hang in the doorway.
Savoca is also home to the church in which Michael Corleone marries Apollonia. In real life, it is the Church of Santa Lucia, located just near Bar Vitelli. In other words, you can take the same walk as the guests of the wedding did more than a quarter of a century ago.
The island’s capital, Palermo, was also used as a setting in both the movies and book. The 19th century theatre, the Teatro Massimo, has been made even more famous, as this is where the opera scenes in The Godfather Part III take place. On the theatre’s steps is Michael’s daughter Mary killed. If you can, make sure to take a tour, sit in the Royal Box and climb on stage.
You should also not miss out on exploring Palermo’s non-Godfather related sights. Get lost in the piazzas and churches, and don’t be alarmed by the traffic and bustle.
This is where you can find the house of Corleone, Don Tommasino’s villa – in fact the Castello Degli Schiavi. You will recognize it as Michael’s Sicilian home, and the place where Apollonia was mistakenly blown up. It is also the setting of the very final scene of the trilogy, where Michael Corleone finally dies, alone.
While the castle is not marked, you can quite easily find it on the road leading from the town to the sea. Note that it is a private residence, and that you probably should not bother the residents with your wishes to take photos.
Whether you are a fan of The Godfather or not, you should certainly visit Sicily. The island will draw you in with its rich history and hidden villages, and you will to this day be able to feel that ancient charm of the Sicilian sun.