Earth (and history): Forza d’Agrò, Sicily, the former Byzantine village that starred in “The Godfather.”

forza dagro 1

This is the village of Forza d’Agrò, in the Province of Messina, Sicily, in the country of Italy. Its population is about 860. As you can see from the various photos (all from Google Earth Street View), this is a pretty traditional Sicilian village, with a very thin veneer of modernity haphazardly stapled to its surface. Life hasn’t changed much in this village since ancient times, and most of the change has occurred in the last 100 years. If you’re a movie buff and the locales here look vaguely familiar, you’re not imagining things: Forza d’Agrò “starred” as the town of Corleone, Sicily in all three of the Godfather movies, beginning in 1972. It’s been on my list to visit on Google Earth for a long time, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Forza d’Agrò, like many small towns on various Mediterranean islands, has been inhabited since antiquity. Greek culture began spreading here in about the 8th century BCE, and of course eventually became part of the Roman Empire in about 135 CE. It’s near Messina, the key seaport of Sicily, which has featured heavily in the region’s history. For 300 years, from 536 to 827 CE, Forza d’Agrò was a Byzantine town. In fact the Byzantines established a famous monastery here which was unfortunately destroyed later on. Over the centuries many other “owners” came and went, including the Normans, Spanish, French, even English who used its strategic location against Napoleon’s navy in the early 19th century. In 1861 Sicily became part of the newly-unified country of Italy, a latecomer in European history. Due to the incessant poverty of the area, many families immigrated to the United States in the last decades of the 19th century up until World War I.

forza dagro 2

As for its history in the Godfather movies, Forza d’Agrò is something of a silent player. In the films, the Corleone crime family is said to come from the village of Corleone, in Sicily–a clerical error at Ellis Island, shown at the very beginning of The Godfather, Part II, substitutes the name of the town for the patriarch’s true name, Andolini. In the middle section of the first film, Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) hides out in the town of Corleone to avoid getting hit by rival mafiosi, and the village is shown again in both sequels. In real life there is a village of Corleone, and many real-life Mafia families who settled in America came from there. Most people assume that The Godfather was filmed in the real Corleone, but it wasn’t. By 1971, when Francis Ford Coppola and his crew arrived in Italy to shoot the movie, they decided the real Corleone was too modern-looking–the first film takes place in the 1940s–and so they hunted for a location that seemed more rustic. They found Forza d’Agrò.

Forza d’Agro even looks considerably different today than it did when it stood in for the town of Corleone in The Godfather, filmed in 1971.

I’ve been to Italy, but never Sicily. Seeing these vistas, though, I’d definitely love to go! I bet you can get some pretty good village wine in this town as well.

Advertisements

4 Comments

  1. So, I’m trying to locate the actual location of the house that was used as the villa of Don Ciccio. Remember, where Vito’s mother is killed? Where Vito returns for revenge and kills Don Ciccio? And, no, it isn’t the same house that Michael hid in in the first film, and was used in all three films at various times. That is Don Tommasino’s villa.

    In any event, if anybody has anything. I have about a month before I board a plane, and I hope to find it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s