Say Sicily and the majority of the people will think of The Godfather. What most people don’t know is that the movie was shot in two small picturesque villages, near Taormina called Savoca and Forza D’Agro, where you will recognize the most important filming locations from The Godfather I and II.
There are lots of The Godfather tours which will take you there. Tours usually last 2-3 hours depending on how long you want to stop for a snack at Bar Vitelli. Bear in mind group tours don’t usually stop, so if you wish to do so, then book a private tour.
Here are the tours I would recommend.
- Group tour from Taormina or Catania can be booked here, it does not include any drinks or food but you will stop for a snack at Bar Vitelli, recommend the cakes or granita.
- Group tour from Taormina, Giardini Naxos or surroundings with lunch (pasta and wine) can be booked here.
- The Private Godfather tour I took can be booked here. The guide will stop when you like, you can have a drink/snack at Bar Vitelli and add a good lunch or dinner after the tour, we just stopped for a casual pizza in the main square below the church in Forza D’Agro. You can ask the guide anything about life in Sicily, the Mafia today or the movie.
If you have a car and would rather visit Sicily’s Godfather filming locations on your own, here you will find all you need to go independently. Then you can explore the rest of the continent in an epic road trip across Europe.
- Filming The Godfather in Sicily
- The Godfather shooting locations in Savoca
- The Godfather shooting locations in Forza D’Agro
- Other Godfather filming locations in Sicily
Filming The Godfather in Sicily
The 1969 book The Godfather written by Mario Puzo takes place in the village of Corleone where the famous Mafia family featured in the story comes from, and was set in the 1940s.
But Corleone was not their original family name, Andolini was. It was a young Vito who said his town’s name instead of his own when asked by an immigration officer upon his arrival in the US.
This village exists in real life and is located in the north-center part of Sicily, nearest to Palermo. Besides the movie, the town has a long Mafia history with several famous chiefs coming from there.
However, when Francis Ford Coppola came to Sicily to scout for the movie locations, he realised that Corleone was a quiet and not very interesting village for a movie, had very few landmarks that would make for a suitable backdrop and was too developed to represent Sicily in the 1940s.
At that time in 1971, Coppola was staying in Taormina, at the San Domenico Convent Hotel, and the staff there were the ones who suggested two small but picturesque villages in the hills near Taormina, Forza D’Agro and Savoca, instead.
Little did they know that they were changing the course of these farming villages and bringing them Hollywood fame. Copolla visited them and realised they were perfect for the movies and the rest is history.
Today, their streets are filled with tourists exploring movie-screen Corleone, having a drink at Cafe Vitelli, or photographing the churches.
Fun movie fact: The entire movie crew stayed at the Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea when the movie was shot, including Al Pacino who was a young and unknown actor at the time.
The Godfather shooting locations in Savoca
Savoca is a tiny pedestrian-only medieval town where the important Sicilan scenes from The Godfather were shot. Several landmarks in the village are featured in the movie and even the locals starred as extras.
The town has less than 2,000 inhabitants and is perched by the side of a cliff with stunning panoramic views over the coast below and a privileged position that made it a strategic place for the Norman.
From Savoca you can see Mount Etna at one end, the Ionian Sea on the other and, on a clear day, the coast of Calabria in Italy’s mainland across the water.
It is clear to the inhabitants of Savocca that The Godfather has brought them pride and plenty of business opportunities. But besides the tours and souvenirs for sale, there is little more happening in town.
You can find a kiosk a few meters from Bar Vitelli towards the church that sells Ape tours (similar to a rickshaw) of the hilly town, and most of the places that are open for business sell memorabilia or items tourists may need, like snacks and water.
The locals have paid homage to Coppola with a shiny mirror-like metal sculpture of him in front of Bar Vitelli, and another of a man and a donkey on the road that leads into town.
But there is more to Savoca than The Godfather and before it was made famous by the movie it was already a pretty medieval village and an important town during Norman times.
Perhaps the most recognizable of all The Godfather filming locations is Bar Vitelli. Looking essentially as it did when the movie was shot, this 18th century palazzo is a pleasant place for a drink, gelato, cake or a Sicilian granita.
The outdoor shaded patio has some tables and chairs and is where the movie scenes from The Godfather I were shot.
Inside you will find a room to the right where a variety of Savoca, Sicilian and The Godfather memorabilia is hung from the walls. You can see photographs of the movie scenes shot in the village and the Sicilian symbol, the Gorgon with three legs, because the island is three-pointed.
In mythology, Gorgon is the sister of Medusa and is said to turn you into stone if you look at her in the eyes. This symbol was traditionally placed outside Sicilian houses so people would not look in. It is also in the Sicilian flag.
In the room to the left is the bar, with a large display fridge showcasing the cakes and sweets and a variety of souvenirs for sale. I could not resist buying a small bottle of Godfather-themed limoncello.
Bar Vitelli is the place where Al Pacino meets his wife Apollonia and where he later comes back to ask for her hand in marriage from her father, owner of the bar. The pair sit at a small table by the main door that is still there.
When he is talking to his friend about Apollonia, her father hears them and makes out that they are referring to his daughter and becomes pretty upset. He tells Al Pacino, “In this town the women are beautiful and virtuous”.
Take a seat and enjoy a drink under the same vines, and listen to the traditional Sicilian music or the movie famous soundtrack playing in the background, as if time stood still.
Church of Sant Nicolo
This Norman church is where Apollonia and Michael got married and also looks exactly like in the movie, since it dates back to the 15th century.
It is not uncommon to see couples recreating the moment in front of the church, and dressed for the occasion. You can also do like the characters in the movie and walk back from the church to Vitelli Bar down the street, along the scenic path with panoramic views.
The church is stunning in its own right, literally built on the side of the mountain, its foundation relying on ancient rocks. The original Norman construction was restored after the 1693 earthquake.
The absys shows the life of Santa Lucia, a venerated saint in Sicily, patron Saint of Syracuse. Inside the church you can see a picture of the weddings scene from the movie and all the items used for the annual procession of Santa Lucia are on display with photographs to illustrate how they are used and explanations.
Other things to do in Savoca
Savoca is best enjoyed slowly. The tiny town has a couple of other churches besides the one featured in the movie (yes, three churches in a town of less than 2,000 inhabitants) and the crypt of the Capuchin convent has mummies you can visit (yes, real mummies).
Read more about things to do in Savoca here.
The Godfather shooting locations in Forza D’Agro
Forza D’Agro is a small village in the hills above the eastern coast of Sicily about 20min drive from Taormina. There are less scenes shot here than in Savoca and so it tends to be a bit less popular with The Godfather fans.
As opposed to Savoca, Forza D’Agro is a bit more developed, with paved streets and regular car traffic, although very sleepy.
The church of the Santissima Annunziata
The church appears in The Godfather II as the backdrop when Vito Corleone escapes from Sicily to the US in a donkey as Don Ciccio’s men search for him. It is also the same church where a wedding takes place in The Godfather II when he returns to Sicily with his wife.
Forza D’Agro’s large church was rebuilt after the 17th century earthquake which destroyed the village. You can see the former church underneath the current one and there are a few niches on the wall which display the sculptures that have been preserved.
The church has a sculpture of Santa Caterina inside. It was sculpted by a disciple of Michaelangelo who spent time in Sicily at the end of the Renaissance period. The same sculpture can be seen in Taormina’s church but that one is of Santa Agata.
Santa Caterina was a martyr, killed by the Romans because she followed God, in the sculpture she is holding a book because she was a philosopher.
The church is very colorful and made with lots of marble in various colors. The white marble is from Florence but the colored ones are from Sicily which was an important quarry for the rest of Sicily.
The altar has a Pantocrator Christ but its origins are unclear. The abscess is Baroque and filled with wooden seats for the priests and there is a painting of the Virgin Mary when she is told she will be having the son of Jesus.
The square and church of Sant’Agostino
In the movie, the square appears in a scene in The Godfather II when Michael comes back to Sicily with his second wife, Diane Keaton in the movie, and wants to show her his village of Corleone.
As they walk around the village they find a wedding and a party at the square and they join in for dinner and party. The square is in front of the second church in Forza D’Agro, a square that is flanked by a Norman gate and located up a quaint set of stairs.
This church was restored at the end of the Baroque period, after the earthquake, and is painted blue inside with a flat wooden ceiling.
Other things to see in Forza D’Agro
Not featured in the movie but right next to the church, there is a chocolate museum which you cannot miss because the smell fills the air as you visit the square.
Chocolate is famous in the town of Modica and is made using the cold method, that is, the sugar does not melt because it has a higher melting point than the chocolate.
Other Godfather filming locations in Sicily
Besides Savoca and Forza D’Agro, there are a couple of other filming locations for some of The Godfather scenes that were shot elsewhere.
Castello Degli Schiavi
This castle in Fiumefreddo, near Catania and Mount Etna, is a Baroque country house that belongs to a local Sicilian family and is not open for visits. This is where Apollonia’s car gets blown up in The Godfather I.
Palermo’s Massimo Theatre
The scenes from The Godfather III when Michael watches his son perform and his daughter is killed were filmed at Teatro Massimo.
The theatre is the third largest in Europe and a revered opera house. It offers tours of the backstage which include the Royal Box where Al Pacino sat and you can recreate that scene.
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