Step Into The World Of The Godfather At This Rustic Italian Village

It was in the light of dawn that Michael Corleone first set eyes on the rustic splendor of Sicily, and decades later, the cinematic portrayal of that experience in Francis Ford Coppola's "The Godfather" (1972) still captivates audiences worldwide. Fans of the ultimate gangster movie series can step out of their 35mm daydreams and into reality by visiting the quaint Italian villages of Savoca and Forza d'Agro, near Taormina in Sicily, where the legendary film was brought to life.

While the Corleone mafia family's legacy in the film (and also in real life) hails from the town of Corleone in Palermo, the filmmakers, in pursuit of a more picturesque setting for production, chose the nearby villages as stand-ins for the overdeveloped landscape of the actual Corleone. Savoca, nestled in the hills of Santa Teresa di Riva, may not be sprawling in size at just eight kilometers long, but it is immense in character and ambiance. With less than 2,000 inhabitants, you're welcomed by a traditional Italian tableau.

The medieval village, perched high up on a rock hill, offers visitors breathtaking views of the Ionian Sea. Savoca is listed as a member of "I Borghi più belli d'Italia" or "The Most Beautiful Villages of Italy" association — and for good reason. The iconic gated walls, rustic stone homes, and haunting churches transport you to a bygone era that seems eternally suspended between reality, the timeless film, and the pages of Mario Puzo's famous novel.

Bar Vitelli and Chiesa Madre di San Nicolo

In Savoca, you'll be treading the same paths that legends of cinema once did 50 years ago. The Bar Vitelli is perhaps the most recognized location from "The Godfather." With its 18th-century facade in the Palazzo Trimarchi building, it is located in the Piazza Fossia, the main town square. It's here that Michael Corleone asked for Apollonia's hand in marriage, and today, the bar houses a collection of photographs and memorabilia from the film. Everything is as it was, from the vine-covered terrace to the curtains. Have an espresso or an aperitif while you're there!

A few steps away is the Chiesa Madre di San Nicolo. This 13th-century church served as the setting for the iconic wedding scene in the film — a pilgrimage site for cinephiles and also an active place of worship. Other churches in Savoca, notably the Chiesa di San Michele and Chiesa Madre di Savoca, are Gothic-Sicilian monuments to the village's ancient history. The Convento dei Cappuccini, built in the early 1600s, is another religious site worth visiting (although unrelated to "The Godfather"). It houses various artifacts, religious items, and a crypt of mummies. 

While exploring, you may stumble upon a sculpture dedicated to Francis Ford Coppola, located by a picturesque overlook of the sea. While there, admire the omnipresent lemon groves and olive trees as their fragrance fuzes with the salty sea breeze. Take a moment — these scents define the Sicilian countryside, and are as symbolic to the local culture as the stone underfoot.

Forza d'Agro and The Godfather's travel tips

Forza d'Agro, just a 10-minute journey away from Savoca, continues the journey into "The Godfather" lore. The remains of a 12th-century Norman castle overlook this medieval hilltop town of small winding streets and traditional Italian buildings. Forza d'Agro is featured prominently in the trilogy, from the inaugural scene in the first film, where Michael Corleone and his bodyguards gaze upon a hillside village, to the opulent Chiesa Madre that opens "The Godfather Part II," and culminating in the final film with a wedding set in that very same church.

There are many "The Godfather" themed tours that take you to discover these locations. These picks from GetYourGuide and Viator come highly rated. Otherwise, you can rent a car or a classic Vespa and do the trip yourself. The best time to visit depends largely on your tolerance for crowds and heat. Generally, the most pleasant times to visit are during the spring and fall, as summer is the peak tourist season and peak heat season. Thankfully, these smaller Sicilian towns don't receive hordes of tourists as some other hotspots.  

Visiting Savoca and Forza d'Agro is an immersion into a slow-paced, traditional Italian lifestyle that has remained largely unchanged despite the global fame thrust upon it. This cinematic pilgrimage is a journey into a world romanticized by "The Godfather" mafia trilogy yet deeply rooted in the authenticity and simple pleasures of present-day Sicily. So, how about we make you a travel offer you can't refuse?