The Godfather: Filmed in Italy!
Today I take you to Sicily, where we will discover all about the most famous locations of the acclaimed The Godfather, by Francis Ford Coppola. The first film of the trilogy was released in 1973 and, amazingly, despite being set in Corleone, NO scenes were shot there. Let’s learn about The Godfather: Filmed in Italy! Here at Your Travel to Italy with Ana Patricia you make the trip of your dreams !!! ALSO: see our “Accommodation in Italy – Tips for your holidays!”.
When we talk about cinema and Italy in the same sentence, one of the films that immediately come to our mind, of course, is The Godfather, by the incredible Francis Ford Coppola. In the movie (which was inspired by the eponymous book by Mario Puzo, published in 1969), the director tells us the story of Don Vito Corleone, brilliantly lived by Marlon Brando, who is a typical Sicilian responsible for building a real empire in America through the barter of favors and, of course, money.
Patriarch of the Corleone family that (in the film) is one of the families that dominate the Sicilian Mafia, Vito always makes it very clear what are the (rigid) rules to be followed by everyone, defining hierarchy, principles and morals: within his world, Of course, and in your own way! The priority is always the family, and when the rules are broken, things can take tragic and irreversible paths!
The film is, without a doubt, a classic of world cinema and made history! Coppola, with his brilliant mind, managed to present the public with a never-before-seen facet of the Italian Mafia in a clear and non-offensive way – although many Italians hate the trilogy, as they claim that the Mafia does not exist. The performance of the cast is also surprising, as well as the soundtrack (handpicked!), its iconic phrases that have become a reference and, of course, the production locations for the scenes that take place in Italy.
The Godfather: Filmed in Italy!
Corleone is a city located in the province of Palermo; it has about 10,600 inhabitants and is a typical small Italian town: calm, quiet and peaceful.
To this day it is not known whether Coppola was unable or unwilling to shoot the film there. There are some theories about this decision: there are those who say that it was banned by the local population, as they would be afraid of the stereotype it could create; others say that it was the director himself who chose not to shoot his film there, fearing the reaction of the inhabitants of Corleone. However, the most accepted theory is that the director found Corleone too modern to serve as a setting for a film set in the 1940s, so he opted for more medieval cities.
The fact is that Corleone became a tourist spot, precisely, because of all the fascination that the film offers us, although, reinforcing, NO scene was shot there!
But, after all, what were the locations chosen by Coppola? Several, but mainly Savoca and Forza D’Agrò
1) The Godfather: Filmed in Italy! – MOTTA CAMASTRA
Let’s start from the beginning: one of the most famous scenes in the film is, without a doubt, the one in which Michael (Vito’s son) arrives in Sicily. With his henchmen, he sets out on a walk to reach his family’s town and, upon seeing the place, on top of a hill, he says proudly: “Corleone!” – but not! That city isn’t Corleone, it’s actually Motta Camastra.
Motta Camastra is a small medieval town that sits right on top of a hill in the province of Messina. It has only 810 inhabitants, but it has an undeniable charm! The origins of the city date back to the town of Crimastra or Camastra, which has existed since the end of 1100. The lords of the city, from 1300, were those of the Linguida family; they fortified the city.
The historic center is one of the most characteristic villages in the Alcântara Valley, and offers us a magnificent view of the famous natural site of the Alcântara Gorges. Be sure to visit the Mother Church dedicated to San Michele Arcangelo, and the Church dedicated to the Annunciation.
2) The Godfather: Filmed in Italy! – SAVOCA
In Savoca we can see other historical points shown in the film. One of them is the classic Bar Vitelli. This was the location chosen for several scenes in the film; in the most famous of them we can see Michael – who had fled New York after starting a war between Italian mafia families – and, upon arriving in Sicily for refuge, he soon falls in love with Apollonia Vitelli; at Bar Vitelli, Michael Corleone meets the cafe’s owner, who is the father of his beloved Apollonia. The Vitelli Bar is also where Michael asks Apollonia’s hand in marriage, that is, the place was the scene of several very important passages of the film.
The bar, of course, boasts several images and objects from the film’s recordings. They are proud to have been chosen as the setting for such an important film as The Godfather.
This bar is located in Palazzo Trimarchi, an 18th century building located in Piazza Fossia, the city’s main square. The bar has an outdoor terrace covered with vines and offers a beautiful view of Savoca. A must see! Ah: there is a mirrored sculpture present in the place that is a very beautiful tribute to the director of the film, Coppola.
Church of San Nicolò
Another iconic place is, of course, the Church of San Nicolò, the place where Michael marries Apollonia. In the movie scene we can see the two walking to the place to the applause of the guests in another historical scene! The church is in a magnificent panoramic point and is very close to the Vitelli bar.
3) The Godfather: Filmed in Italy! – FORZA D’AGRÒ
In Forza d’Agrò, the main attraction is undoubtedly the church of Santissima Annunziata. This church was originally built in the 15th century and rebuilt in the Baroque style at the beginning of the 18th century. Here are also some scenes from the movie, and although it’s nothing grand, it’s worth a visit for fans of the trilogy.
4) The Godfather: Filmed in Italy! – THE GODFATHER 2 AND 3
As you all know the movie is a trilogy and movies 2 and 3 also had some scenes shot in Italy, of course!
In The Godfather 2, one of the highlights, and which served as a location is the Castello degli Schiavi, located in the city of Fiumefreddo of Sicily, however, the place is a private property and cannot be visited by the public – only for guests and usually for private events. The place served as a location to represent Michael’s house and is of unparalleled beauty!
In The Godfather 3, the cities of Acireale, located near Catania, and Taormina, more precisely the Taormina-Giardini train station, which in the film appears as Bagheria Station, deserve to be highlighted.
Speaking of Bagheria, it’s good to make it clear that the final scenes of the movie WERE NOT SHOT THERE! They were actually shot in Palermo, at Palazzo Villa Malfitano. Another (wonderful!) location used in Palermo was Teatro Massimo.
The mafia taboo in Italy
Although it is a fact that the Italian mafia exists, Italians do not like to talk about it, they feel very disrespected and offended (especially if the subject is raised by foreigners), so: avoid talking about it with them, unless that you have a LOT of intimacy with whoever you’re talking to.
The Godfather trilogy has brought to the big screen the raw truth about the subject, but in a very respectful way – although harsh in several passages. The film is about family, traditions, culture, principles and respect, and Coppola avoided, at all costs, caricaturing the “Italian Mafioso”.
The stereotype of the white suit, hat tilted on the head, evil face, and the cigar in the mouth is very common when we talk about the mafia, but it is not shown explicitly in Coppola’s films; he opted for “for the good connoisseur, half a word is enough!”. When Michael’s rise in the mafia is shown, which has steadily built his reputation in America, Coppola also shows an overview of Italian immigration to the United States.
Contrary to what many thought, the idea of talking about the subject did not in any way harm the view that Americans had of Italians, on the contrary: the relationship, there, was built in a solid, constant and respectful way. But, we must mention that many Italians did not like the representation of their nationality arriving in America. Some, to this day, abhor the film and say they are disillusioned with the lack of precision in describing its moral and cultural values, claiming that the film generalizes Italians and thus damages their image.
After all: did Don Corleone exist or not?
No! But it was inspired by real characters. The figure of Don Corleone was created based on several Italian public figures that had the power throughout southern Italy. Coppola romanticized this image by turning the mobster into a “good guy”, and it worked!
The mafia bosses gained aristocratic airs, shades of elegance and touches of humanity. The film caused resistance from members of the mafia, but the world fell in love with them in an unexpected way! In short, Coppola turned the eponymous book into art! It combined truth and fantasy with a touch of beauty, evil and goodness in a harmonious, gentle, delicate, precise, but, above all, clear way!
Curiosity, ambition, and fear have always moved the world and, Coppola, brilliantly, used this to his advantage, mixing everything with splendid panoramas offering the world a true masterpiece of the seventh art.
Tour of The Godfather sets
Are you a fan of “The Godfather” saga? Travel through the towns of Savoca and Forza d’Agrò following in the footsteps of director Francis Ford Coppola to discover the settings where this authentic work of art in the history of cinema was filmed.
Click here to find out more and book!
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The Godfather: Filmed in Italy! If you are a lover of The Godfather, be sure to visit its historic sites in Sicily: you will leave with the feeling of mission accomplished!
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