Savoca is a hill village that sits above the Ionian Sea a short distance north of Taormina and south of Messina. Savoca has been classified as one of Italy's most beautiful villages and is well known for being one of the filming locations for 'The Godfather' trilogy by Francis Ford Coppola.
Italy This Way comment: Savoca is not so much a single village as various clusters of buildings that cling to the sides of a couple of hilltops and along the ridge between them. The beauty of the hillside, the spectacular views over the coast and the quiet charm of the village make this a pleasant excursion from the lively town of Taormina.
Your visit will start in the small square in the centre of Savoca. From here there are extensive views across the valley, with a church on the steep hill to one side of the valley.
The view is overlooked by a tribute statue to Francis Ford Coppola, the film director who came here to film the Godfather about 50 years ago and had such a long lasting impact on Savoca: many visitors are still attracted here today because of this association with the film.
There are two cafes in this square: one of them is the Bar Vitelli which was used for several scenes in The Godpather and has been preserved exactly as it was in the film. As well as being a pilgrimage destination for enthusiasts of the film, inside there are lots of photos taken during the filming of the movie.
The outside tables make the Bar Vitelli a pleasant place to sit and soak up the sun, although every visitor to Savoca wants to take a photo of this terrace, so you might prefer the other cafe on the same square, with a lovely view acros the valley if you don't want to be photographed lots of times!
From here you can follow the narrow road to the left of Bar Vitelli which is a pleasant stroll up the hill, with further views to enjoy.
Along the way you pass through an ancient stone gateway that was built by the Normans in the 12th century as part of the defences of the village (this is the northern entrance: the gate to the south of Savoca has now disappeared). The gate was originally closed by massive iron doors and until the 19th century the road you are now following to the gate was just a steep staircase carved in the rock.
You soon reach two churches: the first is the small, old church of San Michele and the second is the Church of Saint Lucia, which was the location of the wedding scene in The Godfather.
Around the corner beyond the churches you get views in the opposite direction, and reach the a castle: this is the Castello di Pentefur, from the 12th century. There are only ruins today, largely because of earthquakes that have hit the region over the centuries, but from the 11th century to the 16th century this was an imposing castle and controlled much of the region around Savoca.
Return to the centre of Savoca, and if you follow the road to the right of Bar Vitelli you reach the Chiesa Madre (the Mother Church) which has a crypt once used for mummifying the dead and some frescoes.
In the curious Capuccini Monastery, the mummified remains are of 32 monks and rich gentlemen who died here in the 18th century. The mummies are dressed and some of them amazingly well preserved and restored with period costumes. To gain access you need to make a donation to the church, and photos of the mummies are not permitted.
We had expected the drive to Savoca to be a challenge because of the narrow and winding road - after our experiences in some hill villages in Sicily this almost put us off visiting - but in fact it proved to be quite an easy road and not at all stressful! At the time of our visit in May even parking in the ar park was easy but I think that will be harder in the middle of summer.
Corleone, a town on the other side of Sicily, is the birthplace of many of the characters in The Godfather but it was too developed when filming took place in the 1970s and so Coppola chose Savoca and Forzà de Agro to be the main filming locations in Sicily. Forzà d'Agro is another hilltop town and is a short distance south of Savoca.
There are film tours that you can do from Taormina that take you to many of the location sights for filming of The Godfather.
You can find more local travel ideas in the Sicily guide.