Perched on a jagged hill, medieval Savoca is not a typical tourist destination, which means there are no long queues of tourists at its main attractions. Unlike the bustling cities of Palermo or Catania, Savoca offers a rather laid-back and quiet getaway filled with historical and cultural discoveries. Its deep green valleys dotted with olive trees, then winding roads, stunning views of the Ionian Sea and orange-roofed cottages make it a wonderful place to visit in eastern Sicily.
In 1972 when the award-winning movie “The Godfather” was released, Savoca came into the limelight and some movie buffs came here to witness its sheer beauty. Savoca has been ranked among the best villages for its medieval architecture and history by the Association of the “most beautiful villages in Italy” (Borghi più Belli d’Italia), an initiative of the tourism board of the National Association of Municipalities (ANCI) to promote Italian medieval villages to tourists. Those who have had enough of the glitz and glamor of typical Italian towns will find Savoca an ideal getaway. Keep reading to find out why.
Unique attractions in Savoca
Over the centuries, Savoca has witnessed many conquerors including the Romans, Byzantines, Arabs and Normans, which is why visitors can still find many ancient ruins, castles and medieval churches.
Pentefur Castle is one such Savoca attraction, where one can enjoy both the picturesque architecture and the majestic view of the Gulf of Taormina. Historians have debated its date a lot, but most believed it was built in the late Byzantine period. The castle has undergone several renovations due to earthquakes that have hit the area in the past. It once served as the summer residence of Roger II of Sicily, but today it is privately owned.
- Address: Piazza Fossia 7, 98038 Savoca, Sicily Italy
Bar Vitelli – The Godfather Film Set
Movie buffs will undoubtedly recognize Bar Vitelli for its vintage charm and the filming scene of the film “The Godfather”. It is here that Michael Corleone, the film’s protagonist, meets his future father-in-law. Just a 17-minute drive from the bar is the famous 13th-century Church of San Nicolò, where Michael Corleone and Apollonia were married.
And those looking for a low-key restaurant with stunning sea views will certainly appreciate the setting. Expect to find delicious local cuisine, in particular their lemon gratin is a favorite among frequent diners.
- Address: Piazza Fossia, 7, 98038 Savoca ME, Italy
- Opening hours: 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
The Capuchin Crypt
Another place of interest is the Crypt of the Capuchins located opposite the Convent of the Capuchins in the historic center of the city. This place is not for the faint-hearted as it houses around 37 mummified corpses of patricians. There are five chapels decorated with human bones and skulls. Visitors will have the chance to learn about the history of the Capuchin convent and the well-preserved skeletons.
At the last chapel, visitors will find a special message which reads-‘ Quello che voi siete noi eravamo, quello che noi siamo voi sarete‘, it can be translated as ‘what you are we were, what we are you will be’. This philosophical message is similar to what Mexican cartoonist José Guadalupe Posada has portrayed through his work-‘Todos Somos Calaveras‘-we are all skeletons.
- Address: Via Vittorio Veneto, 27, 00187 Roma RM, Italy
- Opening hours: 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 a.m.
Cultural Immersion – Party From Saint Lucia
The beauty of small towns like Savoca is in their ancient traditions and customs, and one way to experience cultural immersion is to attend the Feast of Saint Lucia. The patron Saint Lucia is a key figure in the event, which is believed to date back to between the 17th and 18th centuries. The feast usually takes place on December 13, while the patronal feast normally falls on the second Sunday of August, organized by the homonymous brotherhood. It is a wonderful moment when foreigners can see the procession through the streets of the historic center, where Santa Lucia is represented by a little girl carried on a man’s shoulder. There are many historical anecdotes associated with Santa Lucia, but the main purpose of the event is to celebrate the victory of good over evil.
When visiting Savoca, one can instantly connect with its pristine surroundings and the authentic culture it has to offer. This kind of experience does not happen in tourist places. Savoca is undeniably a wonderful destination, where visitors can stroll through quiet streets while picking wild fruits, enjoy breathtaking views of the valleys and the sparkling sea, and also take part in local festivals that have historical significance.
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