The Godfather, adapted from the novel by Italian American author Mario Puzo and directed by Francis Ford Coppola, certainly won’t be new to you. We would like to suggest a tour of all its Sicilian locations for its most enthusiastic fans and for those who simply want to discover traditional Sicilian towns and atmospheric places.The trilogy is mainly set in New York, but Sicily is there too right from the start. The Corleone home is imbued with it from the wedding celebrations of the daughter of the family, to the clothes and gestures of the characters and their customs and traditions.
We leave the Big Apple for the first time when Michael is obliged to escape and hide out after he kills his father’s contract killer. He takes refuge in Sicily, in Corleone, in his family’s town of origin, the town that they are named after. Sicily’s beauty, so different from 1950s New York, enfolds in all its splendour right from the first scenes. It is a golden, silent, sometimes sensuous land, just like the beautiful Apollonia who Michael falls in love with.We start our tour in Corleone itself, in Palermo province, around 57 km from its capital city. This traditional town, set in a bowl near the Rocca Ri Maschi became famous in the 20th century because of the great many members of the Corleonesi clan of Cosa Nostra that it produced. In actual fact the Vito Corleone character is based on another real life mafia figure Carlo Gambino.
Although Corleone is much talked about these scenes were actually filmed elsewhere. The film was made in the early 1970s but it is set in the 1950s. By then Corleone was too modern and Coppola chose other locations: Motta Camastra, a village with 900 inhabitants, a strongly religious feel and agricultural traditions, Forza d’Agrò, with its Chiesa Madre della Santissima Annunziata and Savoca. This is where the scenes in which Michael meets Apollonia and asks for her hand in marriage were filmed, in the Piazza Fossia farmhouse, in Bar Vitelli and in the church of San Nicolò where the wedding takes place.
The building which is Michael Corleone’s Sicilian house in The Godfather III (1990) is really Castello degli Schiavi in Fiumefreddo di Sicilia on the slopes of Mount Etna. Dating to the eighteenth century, it is one of the most atmospheric castles of the region and a great example of rural Sicilian Baroque. The other scenes set in Corleone and Bagheria were actually shot in these same three towns as well as in Acireale, San Marco castle in Calatabiano, on the beach of the same name and at Taormina station where Michael and Kay meet.
The final scenes of the trilogy in which Michael’s son Anthony performs in Palermo as an opera singer were also filmed in Sicily. The celebration scenes were filmed in Villa Malfitano and the performance itself at the Teatro Massimo. And it is on the theatre’s staircase that Mary, the favourite daughter, meets her tragic end. For the last scenes we return to Castello degli Schiavi, Don Tommasino’s villa in the film, where Michael dies alone.