Compared to other high profile regions in Italy like Tuscany, Puglia or the Amalfi Coast, Sicily has always been shrouded in an intangible mystery. It's that very mystery and secrecy, however, that has, in part, seen it evolve into such a sought after holiday destination. It's been eloquently said that going on holidays to Sicily is like taking a trip around the world and, indeed, exploring this fascinating island - which turns up a contradiction around every corner – is a cultural and historical experience you can't get anywhere else in the world. |
If you're a movie buff, your holidays to Sicily are also a chance to follow in the footsteps of one of the most famous movie characters of all time – Don Vito Corleone, aka The Godfather. Is he entirely fictional or is he based on real-life? It's certainly a question to ponder as you tread his Sicilian path…
Delve Into the Mystery
When Mario Puzo penned his classic novel he introduced readers to the Corleone family. With Francis Ford Coppola's 1972 compelling movie of the book, Don Vito Corleone's dark heritage was brought to the big screen, on the gritty streets of New York and also his ancestral home in Sicily.
Corleone – Or Not
The hilltop town of Corleone (situated south of Palermo) has historically been associated with the underworld in real life, but nowadays it's more known for the Hollywood version, and proudly displays references to The Godfather everywhere. Wander around the crumbling cobbled streets and you'll encounter black and white film stills of Pacino and Brando in local businesses, and there's even a drink named after the infamous Godfather called "Don Corleone Amaro" – it's a bitter tasting aperitif, as is to be expected!
In fact, however, by the time the movie was shot in the early 1970s, the real Corleone was deemed too modern to be able to realistically depict the 1950s, in which the story was set. The scenes were actually shot in several other locations, mainly in the region around the province of Messina.
The scenes in the first movie when young Michael Corleone meets and courts Apollonia were filmed in the tiny medieval hilltop town of Savoca. You can have a drink in the charming 18th century Bar Vitelli - which looks exactly as it does in the movie when Michael asks Apollonia's father for her hand – and also visit the church of San Nicolò, where the wedding scenes were shot. It's no stretch to close your eyes and imagine yourself back to 1950s Italy as Michael and Apollonia emerge into the piazza, even now.
Forza d’Agrò and Motta Camastra
Nearby Forza d’Agrò was used extensively in the filming of the second and third instalments of the movie – you'll recognise the charming Sant'Agostino church and the lovey Chiesa Madre della Santissima Annunziata.
Motta Camastra only had a population of about 900 when filming took place (and that hasn't changed much), and its picturesque rural setting and highly religious ambience also made it the perfect stand-in for 1950s Corleone.
In the capital, Palermo, the magnificent Teatro Massimo, in Piazza Verdi, is the setting of some of the most dramatic and emotional scenes in the final movie. It's where Anthony (Michael's opera singer son) performs, but also where Mary (his daughter) meets her untimely end on the staircase.
On the ragged slopes of Mount Etna, you can visit the stunning Baroque Castello degli Schiavi, in Fiumefreddo di Sicilia, which you'll recognise from the scenes at Michael Corleone's house. It also serves as the site of Don Tommasino's villa, where Michael takes his final breath, alone.
It also seems like a fitting place to end your holidays in Sicily, walking in the footsteps of The Godfather… Fact or fiction, you decide.
John Dixon is Managing Director of Prestige Holidays and visits Italy at least twice a year. He has been providing luxury holidays in Sicily as well as luxury holidays to many other destinations worldwide for over 30 years.
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