Sicily: Exploring The Godfather's iconic Sicilian filming locations

The Godfather enjoys a spectacular setting on the Mediterranean’s largest island; if you’re planning a holiday to Sicily, take a few moments to find out where many of the film’s scenes were actually filmed so you can experience it for yourself!

By Saga team

Published 4 May 2024

2022 saw landmark film The Godfather reach its half-century, and its popularity shows no signs of abating. If you’re a fan, and planning a trip to the magnificent, ancient, mystical island of Sicily - full of brown fields and rolling hills, dotted with sheep and distant villages, and skies pin-pricked with old church spires – recurring images from the film are inescapable.

The Godfather movies are examinations of power, greed, violence, loyalty and criminality, but Sicily still makes for a very memorable holiday. Just reading the road map can make you tingle with excitement. Not far from the capital Palermo is the village of Corleone, the original home and family name of the characters in Mario Puzo’s Godfather novel, on which the first movie was based.

But much of the filming was done in the villages of Forza d’Agro and Savoca, quite a bit further to the east, in the Messina province. The drive up to these places takes you through the fields where Al Pacino’s Michael walks with his bodyguards in the 1972 film, although the shimmering hilltop village in these first scenes is actually Sant’Alessio, which had a more picturesque church spire for director Francis Ford Coppola’s camera.

Perhaps the most romantic location is the Chiesa di San Nicolo in Savoca, where Michael marries his Sicilian bride Apollonia. In The Godfather, the procession of congregants walks merrily down the hillside; now it’s often a phalanx of tourists, but go at the right time and memories of the movie waft back.

Acireale, a lovely town just outside the Sicilian city of Catania, has a starring role The Godfather Part II, and, of all the films, The Godfather Part III makes the best use of Sicily’s capital, Palermo, a wonderful city - dramatic and noisy, with superb food and markets, humming with colour and life and shouting. It’s a constant film set, with buzzing mopeds and heat and men whistling.

Perhaps the most striking location of all is Teatro Massimo, on Piazza Verdi in Palermo, the biggest opera house in Italy. You can just marvel at the detail of the exterior, but if you can get tickets to a performance, you’ll have an unforgettable night, even if you don’t channel your inner Al Pacino.

When you visit Sicily, you can totally understand where The Godfather’s famous line came from: the whole place is an offer you can’t refuse.

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