Thanks to its remote cliffside location, the quiet Sicilian village of Savoca seems idyllically frozen in time, with preserved medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque architecture. Among these historic buildings is Bar Vitelli, a small, stone-flagged café that played an important role in the film The Godfather.
Though the film’s fictitious criminal family is supposed to be from the town of Corleone, on the western side of the island, director Francis Ford Coppola chose settings across Sicily’s eastern coast, including ones outside Savoca’s local bar and church. When he began filming in the 1970s, the actual town of Corleone had too few historic sites left to fit his vision. Savoca, on the other hand, with its fragmented ruins, traditional buildings, and old cisterns, had the perfect pastoral visuals needed to capture the scene. If you pay close attention to the movie, you’ll notice that Coppola carefully left out any views of the Mediterranean Sea, which would be a dead giveaway that the characters weren’t actually in the landlocked village of Corleone.
In the movie, Michael Corleone hides in Sicily after sparking a mafia war in New York. After falling in love with a local woman, Apollonia, he encounters the café owner, who turns out to be her father, at Bar Vitelli. Housed in an 18th-century building in Palazzo Trimarchi, the town’s main square, the café still serves customers seasonally (it closes in winter). The restaurant, outfitted with outdoor tables under a leafy trellis, has remained relatively unchanged since its days as a film location. Inside, guests can check out stills from The Godfather that were shot around Savoca, as well as Lupara shotguns hung from the wall.
Film buff or otherwise, most who visit this tiny town will sit down at Bar Vitelli for a bit of legendary movie history, a frosty granita, and a bite to eat. If you come with relatives or friends, be sure to make them an offer they can’t refuse; you know, like a cappuccino on the shaded, vine-covered terrace.
Know Before You Go
The easiest way to get to Savoca is by car. Note that the restaurant closes for the winter season.