Savoca (ME)

"Nobody ever comes to Savoca" says Paul Duncan in his excellent Sicily, A Traveller's Guide.

Well, I've been there three times, and would hope to return when next I visit Sicily. There are at least three excellent reasons, apart from the peaceful atmosphere and the stunning views over the sea from the piazza. First, the Godfather connection. The village was chosen to stand in for the less-photogenic Corleone: also off-limits because the real Mafia were none to keen on Coppola's project. When Michael and his two companions are walking in the hills, they see this picturesque village in the distance - which I think is actually nearby Forza d' Agrò - and one them remarks "Corleone". But later, after Michael's wedding, they do walk down from the church in Savoca to Vitelli's Bar on the piazza for the reception. The table where he sat earlier to ask the padrone for the hand of his delightful daughter Apollonia is still there, and you can sit at it to sample the famous granita di limone (which is the second reason for making the journey to Savoca). To quote Duncan again:

The granita machine which takes up two thirds of the bar is a much coveted piece of equipment dating approximately from the 1930s; it is a fridge, sink and granita machine all rolled into one. When he was in Savoca to make The Godfather, Francis Ford Coppola tried to buy it and ship it back to America, but the stalwart Savocesa behind the bar would not let it go [she was still very much in control in 2001 - refusing to turn on the machine in early April, despite the heatwave!]. It is as essential a part of the Bar Vitelli as is the 1950s wireless, the old cane sofa with a rug flung over it and the groceries that have been lining the shelves since they were put there very nearly twenty years ago.'

Godfather souvenirs are not now very apparent - the new pavement on the road up from the piazza past the church to the castle was a gift to the people of Savoca from the production, but the buildings it passes 'have been for years slipping down the hill among the wild flowers.' There are some framed faded sepia pictures from the Godfather era in the Bar Vitelli, one of Marlon Brando included, although he wasn't involved in any of the shooting in Sicily.

The third reason for a visit is the Convent of the Frati Minori Cappuccini, which you will have passed on the road up to the town - or more precisely, the Catacomb which lies beneath. You pay a small sum to the custodian, and then pass through a trapdoor, down a rickety wooden ladder into the crypt. Unless you've seen the similar sight at the Cappuccini in Palermo, nothing can prepare you for what you are about to see. Around the wall in glass cases or coffins are the corpses of Savoca's worthies, dating from the 17th and 18th centuries. Most are in a standing posture, and still wearing the appropriate dress for their professions in life. Few horror films could compare with the grisly reality of sharing a crypt with 35 or so decayed corpses, some 300 years old. The fact that some have been daubed with green paint by vandals only adds to the effect. Having an ancestor here is a source of great local pride.

Visit the Catacomb, and see the for yourself (if you dare!). Definitely not for the squeamish!


Use the table below to find your way around Sicily:
S. Tearesa di Riva

Printer friendly page: click to print

What's new? Search the site? Main Index? Bookshop? Top of Page?
The Classics Pages are written and designed by Andrew Wilson
Comments, questions and contributions welcome.