In 1972, the first instalment of The Godfather trilogy, starring Marlon Brando and Al Pacino, blazed on screens across the world. Those who have watched it know that it is not just a mob-movie, and it is not only just another epic about a hot-blooded anti-hero... though to be fair, the main character it would not be a stretch to describe him as such.
Leaving the plot and depth of the theme aside, for me, one of the reasons why The Godfather was also a very beautiful experience was for the way it portrayed traditional Sicily. Its culture, its values, not to mention the glimpses of its picturesque countryside and villages.
One of the most touching scenes in The Godfather is when the young Michael meets Apollonia, his first wife, in a tiny village in Sicily. This village is Savoca, a place which I had the pleasure of visiting last time I was in Sicily some weeks ago.
Savoca, perched on a small hilltop in the middle of the Sicilian countryside, is the perfect place to fall in love. No wonder the still-naive padrino lost his heart here. The first time he spots his love is in the Sicilian countryside near the village, yet he truly meets her and her family at Bar Vitelli, a small traditional Sicilian Bar which does exist (although it went by another name in the movie).
Set among rickety tables and green plants, somnolent tabby cats and muttering Sicilian villagers, Bar Vitelli is a cool oasis amid the heat of Sicily. Because yes, Sicily in March is so hot, you definitely need to take a breather now and then, especially if you are hiking all around the mountainous eastern part of the island.
Although the bar itself does not in fact offer a huge number of dishes to taste, it does have a number of interesting platters stuffed with local delicacies which one can try, not to mention grappa, a local sweet wine, which is simply delicious.
After stopping for lunch at Bar Vitelli and admiring the vintage leftover props and photos of the original Godfather set, we made our way to the village of Savoca itself. The medieval architecture was amazing enough, but what really pierced my heart was the breathtaking panorama.
Savoca is, in fact, to be found quite near Taormina, which is a prosperous coastal resort-town, yet it is untouched by progress and is almost the same as it was in 1972, when the movie was made.
The cobble-stoned alleys, winding paths and plain yet beautiful churches are truly inspiring, as are the green fields, terraced hills and shining sea winking in the distance. Coincidentally, there was a religious traditional procession, complete with live orchestra and little boys with censers, which we spotted gleefully as we were walking towards the local church. The locals looked at us as though we were strange birds of prey they had never seen before (possibly because of our heavy metal T-shirts) and I tried not to aim my mobile camera at them as I took some shots.
Unfortunately, there were so many locals congregating around the Chiesa di San Nicolo e Santa Lucia for the religious service and the procession itself that we felt kind of uncomfortable to intrude.
However, since only the outside of this church was actually used as a location during the wedding ceremony in the movie itself, it was still very easy to imagine the future don and his bride standing on the whitewashed steps with all their Sicilian extended family around them. It was also very interesting to see a local tradition being enacted and mentally compare it to our own religious processions in Malta.
Just another reminder that, although the Mediterranean Sea may divide us, our culture and beliefs are still very much in tandem with those of our neighbours on the Sicilian island.
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