Rated among the most beautiful ‘borghi’ (historic villages) of Italy, Savoca in Sicily isn’t overrun with tourists, which has helped maintain a relaxed atmosphere and a slow pace from earlier times.
Positioned on a rocky hill, with views over citrus and olive groves and vineyards, this small medieval town is best explored by wandering its narrow streets, flanked by historic buildings, catching views that reach as far as the Gulf of Taormina.
What attracts most visitors to Savoca is to retrace the locations of a legendary movie that was shot in part here: Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather. It is in Savoca that the scenes set in Corleone involving the young Michael Corleone, played by Al Pacino, were filmed.
Bar Vitelli, at the entrance to town, is where the scene of the meeting between Michael Corleone and the father of his future wife (the owner of the café) was shot. Bar Vitelli is still in business. The Church of San Nicolò is where the wedding between Michael and Apollonia was officiated.
Beyond the cinematic attractions of Savoca, there are many buildings of medieval and Renaissance origins, as well as Baroque buildings contrasting with rural buildings from the early 20th century. They include the ruins of the Castle of Pentefur, once belonging to the founders of Savoca; the Church of Santa Maria in Cielo Assunta and its crypt, a site of mummifications; remains of the walls and of the ancient town gate. A more recent attraction is located at the entrance to the village where ceramic panels in bas-relief were placed by Messina artists Salvatore and Giuseppe Zona in 1989 to recount the history, art and local traditions of the area.
Savoca is located about 170 kilometres (110 mi) east of Palermo and about 30 kilometres (19 mi) southwest of Messina. It’s a 45-minute drive from Taormina.