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Movies in the Med – A Brief Guide to Sicilian Cinema

With the 88th Academy Awards taking place later this week, Christina Baechle of Sicily4u takes us on a whistle-stop tour of Sicilian cinema…

Castellammare del Golfo

One of the final scenes of Steven Soderbergh’s rat pack follow-up Ocean’s Twelve was shot in the bay of Castellammare del Golfo. The picturesque beauty of this ancient town provides the perfect backdrop to the sharp suited con men played by Hollywood A-Listers, Brad Pitt and George Clooney.

The historic fishing port sits below a steep mountain and is overlooked by a medieval fortress. Despite its brushes with Hollywood glitz, the town isn’t overrun with tourists and you can enjoy a distinctly Sicilian vibe with many traditional bars and restaurants or take in the sumptuous views at the piazza Petrolo. You may even hear whispers of the town being the birthplace of many real-life American mafia figures.


Sicily also plays host to the fictional Corleone family, whose escapades are chronicled in Francis Ford Coppola’s multi-award-winning trilogy, The Godfather. Many scenes were shot in the north of the island.

Located in the northwest of Sicily is the capital, Palermo. 2,700 years old with a long history in food, art, music and culture, Palermo it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. It also houses the largest theatre in Italy called Teatro Massimo and Coppola set the operatic climax of his series in this grand 19th Century building.

Bagheria & Palazzo Adriano

If you are looking for somewhere a little quieter, then seek out some of the locations from Giuseppe Tornatore’s 1989 Oscar-winning film Cinema Paradiso. Parts of this autobiographical film were shot in the director’s hometown of Bagheria, a place also depicted in The Godfather Part III. The film tells the story of a successful director returning home for the funeral of a friend who was a projectionist at the local Cinema Paradiso.

In this love letter to the art of cinema, Tornatore employs a heavy use of flashbacks to tell his coming-of-age story and its impact on adulthood. The famous town square of the film can be found in the village of Palazzo Adriano, a mere half hour from Palermo. The quiet village of cobbled streets even has a small museum in honour of Tornatore’s work.

Noto & Syracuse

Tornatore returned to Sicily in 2000 with another historical drama starring Monica Bellucci as the title character Malena.

The film is set around the time of the Second World War with scenes shot in the towns of Noto and Syracuse. Both are well regarded for their historic architecture, with the gorgeous 18th Century Sicilian Baroque of Noto and ancient Medieval Greek of Syracuse reminding us of the rich and diverse history that Sicily has to offer.

Main image above credit: Tirinzoni