Santa Teresa di Riva 10/03/2016
Our last night in Sicily
So this is our last night in Sicily and we are spending it like most of our other nights we have been here by being parked up on a beach. We have just completed our tour of the locations used in the ‘The Godfather’ trilogy. We did see some of the places earlier in our trip when we visited Palermo and there are some places where filming took place; some street scenes were shot in Acireale and Bagheria that we could not find, but apart from that we got the lot. Only the village of Savoca gives any notification of where the locations were and even that in the self-styled city of art is minimal. So here we go: the interactive map shows you where the scenes were shot and even includes a clip from the actual movie of the walk through the village after the marriage of Michael and Appollonia in Savoca.
Some of the final scenes of The Godfather III were shot in the beautiful Teatro Massimo. This is where Michael goes to see his son perform and Mary, his daughter is tragically killed. It is worth taking a tour of this theatre where you can sit in the Royal Box, go on the stage and for a bit extra go up on the roof. We were lucky we were the only people on the tour and had a wonderful time.
The view from the Royal Box of the Stage. Al Pacino sat in the front left seat, so did I.
The View from the Stage
Teatro Massimo Palermo
There is a town called Corleone in Sicily that historically has been heavily linked with the Mafia. A string of Mob bosses have originated from Corleone and in the immediate post-war era there were over 150 deaths as rival families fought for a share of the American dollars pilling in to rebuild Europe. Mario Puzo used the name of the town for the characters in the book. Corleone today is a dump consisting of nothing of note unless you want to see brown tower blocks. The film crew thought so too and moved the location of Corleone to the east of the island.
This is where the Corleone house is situated, in real life it is the Castello Degli Schiavi. This is where some of the most iconic scenes in the movie were shot. It is first seen in Godfather I where Michael goes into exile. Next it is where Appollionia is blown up while learning to drive and thirdly it is where Michael goes to die.
The castle is not marked but is easy to find as it is on the road from the town to the sea by the excellent bird reserve. It is a private house and despite ringing the doorbell nobody came to answer, I did get to play with the guard dog that was an absolute softy and get a sly picture through the gates.
Castle and friendly guard dog
The pearl of Sicily is a beautiful place, perhaps too beautiful to make a gritty 1940’s gangster movie in and so only one scene was shot here; the meeting of Michael and Appollonia at the railway station. We have devoted an entire blog entry to Taormina if you want to read all about the place.
Where the couple met
The first of the two hilltop villages used by Francis Ford Coppola to portray rural Sicily from the 1940’s. This is a mighty drive up a steep mountain road in a motorhome. A series of hairpin bends bring you from sea-level to the village set 500m up. There are incredible views along the coastline from the belvedere at the lower part of the town.
Looking North from Forza. We camped on that beach
Toarmina from Forza d’Agro
In Sicily you are free to park anywhere, especially in the Siesta time in the afternoon when the entire island is either eating or sleeping. Everywhere that is except Forza d’Agro where they have employed young parking Wardens who chase Vehicles from one car-park to the other quicker than a ferret up a trouser-leg. Forget about drug-enhance Kenyans being the Kings of middle-distant running these undiscovered younguns would beat any doped-up Africans to a Gold at this year’s Olympics. I had just moved from one spot lower down to the next up a huge chunk of mountain to meet the young lady who gave me the directions from the lower spot writing me out a ticket in the upper spot. Does that make sense?
Back to the Godfather. Here was shot scenes where Michael Corleone first arrives in Sicily and the same church is used again when he is making his escape while being hunted by rival gangs. The church is Santissima Annunziata and we have also included some extra shots that were used in background.
Saint Agostiniano also used in the movies
Bar in the piazza
Opposite the church where the baddies were looking
The town of Savoca sits on Sicily’s eastern coast about 19 miles from the port city of Messina and 13 miles from the seaside resort of Taormina. It served as the backdrop for some of the important Sicily scenes.
Many memorable scenes were filmed at the Bar Vitelli, a cafe and restaurant that still looks essentially exactly like it did during filming (and, truth be told, for a long time before that). It’s located in the centre of the small town, in an 18th century building, and there is a small gallery of filmmaking memorabilia on the wall inside – including photographs taken during the filming and newspaper articles about the movie and Savoca. The doorway to the bar is still framed by beaded curtains, just as it was in the film.
Also in Savoca is the church where Michael Corleone and Apollonia were married. The relatively plain Church of Santa Lucia is a short walk from Bar Vitelli, and of course you can walk the same path as the wedding celebrants did after the ceremony, from the church back to the bar. Corleone is nowhere near the coast, so even though Savoca has gorgeous views over the water the filmmakers worked hard to not show any sea views in order to make it appear as if it was the actual town of Corleone.
At this point it was thought to get into character. I have spent my entire life denying I am Al Pacino and to be honest I don’t see the similarity between a 5 foot tall American of vintage age and a 6 foot Englishman in his prime. I can only think to Koreans we all look the same. For those of you with a motorhome and are thinking about making a visit then the drive up to Savoca it is a doodle and at this time of year there is ample parking at the tourist Information office.
So the Sicilian Coppola is on the head and it is time for a drink in Bar Vitelli and a chat with the owners with whom I lost my patience with as they kept calling me Al instead of Betty
Bar Vitelli with original Curtains
Sat at the very Table
And a couple of pictures of the inside including stills from the movies on the wall.
From the Movie
Appollonia just before the wedding
Our final stop was to re-create the walk through the village from the Church to the Bar and as you can see from the photo, the church, as always in Christendom is always at the highest point.
Church of San Lucia
It was just our luck that a coach party descended on the place and were doing their best to get in the way of our re-make of the greatest movie ever made. I was all for getting a machine gun out of the violin case I was packing, but Tracy taking inspiration from the last village suggested we sprint to get past them. This we did. To be fair they were not interested in the cinematic history of the town, they were here to see a load of rubble that once stood as a Fort a few hundred years ago. What is wrong with modern culture people? So a few pictures of us, the church, the village and a sculpture of the man that made it possible.
San Lucia scene of the Wedding
San Lucia and Savoca
Looking down from Savoca
The whole Village with some unwanted Coach party
Francis Ford Coppola
Love to All