Ah, Savoca. Whether you’re hoping to visit this quintessential Sicilian hilltop village because you’re a fan of The Godfather or The White Lotus or you just want to visit some off the beaten path towns in Sicily, let me promise you now: you will love Savoca. And this Savoca guide has got you covered.
We stayed in Savoca for three days and loved every minute of it, and I can’t wait to tell you everything about Savoca and hopefully convince you that it’s worth the trip! In this Savoca guide, we’ll take a closer look at some of the top things to do and see in Savoca, as well as provide tips on how to make the most of your visit – so pack your bags and come along as we explore one of Sicily’s most picturesque towns!
- Is it worth it to go to Savoca?
- What is Savoca famous for?
- Where is the bar from The Godfather?
- Where is The Godfather tour in Sicily?
- How many days do you need in Savoca?
- What is in Savoca?
- Where to stay in Savoca
- What to see in Savoca
- What to do in Savoca
- Where to eat in Savoca
Is it worth it to go to Savoca?
Savoca is an undeniably charming hilltop town located in the northeast of Sicily—just a short drive from Taormina—known for its stunning views, rich history, and delicious cuisine. I like to describe Savoca as small but mighty, and I believe it’s a must-see destination for anyone spending some time in Sicily – hence creating a whole Savoca guide to help you make the most of your visit!
If you’re at all familiar with Anthony Bourdain’s visit to Sicily on his show Parts Unknown, you might be wondering if it’s worth it to go to Savoca. He seemed disappointed with the “touristy” nature of Savoca, insisting that people who visited Savoca to follow the trail of The Godfather weren’t getting to see the real Sicily.
Honestly, I could not disagree with him more. Yes, Savoca certainly has its fair share of shops selling souvenirs referencing The Godfather, and there are daily Godfather tours in the town, but this doesn’t mean its lost its authenticity! That’s especially true in the evening, after many of the tours leave for the day and local residents come out to drink aperol spritzes on the piazza.
In fact, we felt that Savoca offered us one of the most “local” slices of Sicilian life that we encountered on our entire trip to Sicily. Savoca is downright off the beaten path, and it is SO worth a visit! That’s why I decided to write this Savoca guide for you.
One of the best parts about traveling through Sicily, in my opinion, was getting to really soak up the culture and way of life in every place I was, and there is no better place to do that than off the beaten path. From exploring the town’s ancient churches and chapels, to sampling traditional Sicilian dishes, there’s something for everyone in Savoca. Don’t worry yourself by trying to only see the most “important” or famous places in Sicily, I promise you won’t regret it.
What is Savoca famous for?
Savoca is primarily famous for serving as a filming location for much of Francis Ford Coppola’s well known film, The Godfather. Tons of scenes were filmed there, and you can visit a few of the filming locations, like Bar Vitelli and the church of San Nicolò. More recently Savoca had a bit of limelight when the popular HBO series The White Lotus filmed there as well. All this attention has made many visitors to Sicily seek out a Savoca guide to help them make the most of their time in the town.
Aside from the film and TV world, Savoca is famous for its stunning hilltop location, beautiful views of the surrounding countryside and Ionian Sea, and rich cultural heritage. The town is known for having well-preserved medieval architecture, including several ancient churches and chapels. Basically, Savoca has something for everyone, and this Savoca guide will cover it all.
Where is the bar from The Godfather?
Okay I know this is a Savoca guide, not a Godfather guide, but it’s a common question, so I want to address it!
The bar from The Godfather, also known as Bar Vitelli, is pretty hard to miss. It’s well located right in the center of Savoca, on the town square inside of an 18th century palazzo. There are beautiful and picturesque vines all along the outside, enclosing the front patio for a nice and private feel. Inside, it’s almost like a museum, with loads of film memorabilia along the walls.
For the full experience I recommend having a granita or a drink out on the front terrace.
Where is The Godfather tour in Sicily?
There are a number of Godfather tours to do while you’re in Sicily, and you don’t even need to be staying in Savoca to do one. Plenty of tours leave from Catania and Taormina and will bring you around the Savoca area (most also include a visit to nearby Forza d’Agrò where more scenes from the movie were shot). I’ve selected a few of the best options out there for you to explore before we get back to the rest of this Savoca guide:
How many days do you need in Savoca?
There’s really not a right or wrong answer here, it all depends on your travel style and what the rest of your time looks like! I personally recommend staying for 2-3 days in Savoca, as this gives you ample time to explore both the town itself and the surrounding areas in a leisurely and meaningful way. This is what we did, and so it’s my official Savoca guide recommendation. We really appreciated the opportunity to really get to know Savoca, while also having time to go to Taormina, the beach at Spiaggia del Tono Milazzo, and spend a day at the pool in our hotel!
That being said, if you only want to devote a day to Savoca, that’s equally as doable. You can wander the town and grab a meal or drink and soak in the energy and views of the lovely town before heading off on your merry way! That’s really the beauty of this little town, it’s as big or as small as you wish.
What is in Savoca?
Despite Savoca’s size, it’s home to several ancient churches and chapels such as the Church of Santa Maria della Grazie, the Chapel of Saint Lucia, and the Church of San Nicolò—which was featured in The Godfather. If you want to get a better understanding of the town and region you can visit the Museo della Civiltà Contadina, which showcases traditional Sicilian life and culture.
Now, to the best bits of my Savoca guide!
Savoca Guide: Stay, See, Do, Eat
Where to stay in Savoca
If you’re planning to stay in Savoca for a few nights, then this Savoca guide has some great options for you. While many people overlook the opportunity to stay in Savoca itself, we found it to be a much calmer and more “authentic” feeling setting to base ourselves than the much more hectic (and typical) choice of Taormina.
I highly recommend a 3-night stay – take your mornings to go on an adventure up or down the coast and your afternoons/evenings to explore Savoca itself!
Savoca has a few hotels and B&Bs to offer, and also a handful of vacation rentals. So whether you’re on the lookout for full service accommodation or just a place to sleep, the town has got you covered!
In my opinion there’s really only one right choice for accommodation in Savoca, and that’s Resort Borgo San Rocco. This is where we stayed over the summer, and we loved every minute of it. It’s a stunning agriturismo perched on the edge of one of the stunning hills in Savoca.
One thing I loved about staying here was that it’s family owned, and you can really feel that while you’re there. The owner, Vittorio, is always around the hotel, making sure everyone has everything they need to have a nice time, whether that’s an afternoon espresso, complementary prosecco with dinner, or (multiple) rounds of limoncello after dinner.
There’s a pool that overlooks the hills and has a view out to the sea, and the restaurant does impeccable dinner service every single evening. Nearly every room at the hotel has a stunning view, due to its location on the side of a cliff, and they’re also all equipped with air conditioning—an absolute necessity in the summer.
The nicest part, in my opinion, was that Borgo feels both secluded and simultaneously is only a 7 or so minute walk into town. I honestly couldn’t recommend it higher and this Savoca guide would be incomplete without mentioning it.
(One essential note if you choose to stay at Borgo San Rocco is that Google Maps is inaccurate for this hotel; you access the property by driving on a private road that Google doesn’t recognize which is reached from the central piazza in the center of Savoca. We found it easiest to estimate driving times to our day trip destinations using Savoca as the starting point and adding 5 minutes!)
If you’re looking for a more self-catering, vacation rental experience in Savoca, then I’m dedicating this section of my Savoca guide to you!
When looking for rental properties for my trips, I have a few key requirements: air conditioning, a history of good reviews, and a great location. Bonus points for outdoor space.
On a practical note, those air conditioners will be highly necessary if you visit Savoca any time from April to October. Trust me!
This house is also located just 800m from the central piazza of Savoca, making it perfectly convenient for you to stroll into town for a morning granita with brioche or an evening aperitivo before dinner. Are you starting to imagine how absolutely dreamy your trip to Savoca will be?!
Not only that, but this place has a 5 star review from everyone who has stayed in the past, which is no small feat from vacation rentals these days and seriously reflects what you can expect from the property.
And finally, of course, are the not one but TWO balconies the this house has – offering the most stunning views out over the surrounding hills and the Ionian Sea.
Go ahead and book this place now – you can thank me later!
What to see in Savoca
While Savoca is quite small—less than 2000 residents as of 2017—there is plenty to keep you occupied for however long you’ll be there. Taking a stroll through the hilly roads and exploring the town’s well-preserved medieval architecture is an enchanting experience in itself – there are even ruins of a medieval castle!
If you’re visiting for The Godfather
The key sites to see in Savoca proper include:
- Church of San Nicolò: Location of the wedding between Michael Corleone and Apollonia
- Bar Vitelli: Probably the most famous location from the original novel The Godfather, later reproduced by Francis Ford Coppola in Savoca; it’s still operational!
- Palazzo Trimarchi: Famous palazzo built in 1773 where several scenes of the film were shot
- Homage to Francis Ford Coppola: Not the most exciting thing in the word, but worth a photo op for any Godfather fan!
Although this is a Savoca guide, not all of the most famous scenes from The Godfather were filmed in Savoca. If you’re in the area, you’ll also want to check out Forza d’Agrò to see the following:
- Church of Santissima Annunziata: Appears twice in The Godfather II when Vito Corleone escapes Sicily on a donkey, and during a wedding later in the money when he returns to Sicily with his wife
- Piazza of Sant’Agostino: Also seen later in the film when Vito and his wife (played by Diane Keaton) return to Corleone
If you just want to check out Savoca’s beauty
If, like me, you’ve never seen The Godfather (or don’t really care one way or another), never fear! This Savoca guide still has plenty more up its sleeve to excite you.
- Church of Santa Maria della Grazie & the Chapel of Saint Lucia: Two more stunning medieval churches for anyone who loves that kind of thing!
- Museo della Civiltà Contadina: Showcasing traditional Sicilian life and culture… it’s small but definitely worth a visit!
- Crypt of the Capuchin Convent: You can actually visit the catacombs of this medieval monastery and see mummified monks. I don’t know if that’s personally my thing, but people seemed pretty excited about it – so maybe it’s for you!
- Piazza del Popolo: The main square, surrounded by charming cafes and bars. Perfect for a late afternoon aperitivo!
What to do in Savoca
No Savoca guide would be complete without a helpful list of what to do there. This is going to drastically differ, though, depending on whether you decide to stay in Savoca or not.
I won’t be shy about saying that I totally think you should stay in Savoca. But for my friends who don’t have time in their itinerary or are still on the fence about centering your trip around a town that’s so off the beaten path – don’t worry, I’ve got you covered too.
If you’re staying in Savoca
If you plan stay in Savoca, the truth is you’re going to see a lot of what the town has to offer in one day.
The most relaxing way to see all of the most important sites from The Godfather is with a Savoca guided tour by Ape!
Ape (pronounced “ahp-ay”), if you don’t already know, is Italian for “bee”. The Ape is a quintessential Italian mode of transport with three wheels that you are very likely to see all over Sicily (or really anywhere in Italy) during your travels. Usually, they’re used by farmers or delivery people to transport goods short distances – though that doesn’t mean you won’t see them on the highway!
However, in Savoca, there’s a little kiosk just off the main square where most days you’ll be able to hire an Ape to take you all over town. A Savoca guided tour by Ape sounds like a pretty fun way to see the sites, right?!
If you’re staying elsewhere
Savoca is a small town at the end of the day, and the odds are good that you’ll actually be staying elsewhere.
Whether that’s Taormina (which I honestly do not recommend in high season), Catania, Messina, Syracuse or even Palermo, there are Savoca guided day tours that will pick you up at your accommodation and bring you right to the places you want to go.
The main question you’ll probably be asking yourself is how do I possibly decide which tour is best with so MANY options?
Yeah – the options are pretty overwhelming. Let me help you out:
- Half-day tour from Taormina with lunch: Find availability and book
- Full day tour from Catania or Taormina: Find availability and book
- Full day tour from Catania including all important sites in northeast Sicily with street food & drinks: Find availability and book
- Private half-day tour from Taormina: Find availability and book
- Private full day tour from Catania in a vintage car: Find availability and book
Where to eat in Savoca
There are a good number of restaurants and places to eat in Savoca that you can enjoy during your time there, and lucky for you, this Savoca guide is covering basically all the ones worth your time.
If you’re staying at Resort Borgo San Rocco, they offer a simple breakfast every morning at the hotel.
Alternatively, Bar Vitelli is open for breakfast so you can get your Godfather fix first thing in the morning!
Panificio Il Buon Pane is located just around the corner if you’re after something quick, and the cafe/little store in the center of the main square (not located on Google Maps) has granita – the best traditional Sicilian breakfast!
When we first arrived in Savoca we had lunch at Ristorante Gelso Nero, which offered an intimate dining room with amazing views over the Ionian Sea and the hills surrounding Savoca.
Panificio Il Buon Pane, just off the central piazza, does focaccia pizzas during the day, if you’re after something quicker.
My personal choice for a pre-dinner cocktail (or granita, because why not?!) is the bar/cafe on the Piazza del Popolo in the center of town. Locals congregate here every evening which makes for amazing people watching, and it feels like you’re in the midst of everything!
If you’re looking for something with more romantic vibes, La Dolce Vita Se Wine Bar is a bit of a hike up the hillside but its views do NOT disappoint. Oh, and this “bar” is another one of those cute Ape trucks converted to sell wine. They also play great music!
Dioniso di Morabito Andrea straddles the line between pre-dinner drinks and the main event. We tried to stop in one evening for dinner, but the owner Andrea informed us that the chef was away that day. His solution? He offered to prepare us a charcuterie plate that did NOT disappoint and we ended up finding dinner elsewhere. But it’s worth popping in earlier in the day to see if the chef will be around because I’m sure the food would be amazing too.
My Savoca guide wouldn’t be complete without mentioning one of my favorite meals which was at Osteria del Borgo. Not only is it situated near the main square with a lovely view if you’re on the terrace, but the staff was also so nice, and the food was incredible. They spoke almost no English at all, but that just made the whole experience more of an adventure!
Ristorante Pizzeria del Parco seems to be one of the most popular places in town, and its rear terrace is absolutely gorgeous.
For a cheap and quick dinner, Il Sambuco Pane Condito is a casual sandwich shop that opens at 8pm and offers delicious no frills panini and drinks.
I hope this Savoca guide has given you plenty of ideas about how to spend your time in “The Godfather town”.
I can’t recommend this gorgeous medieval hilltop village enough, whether you’re a fan of the film or not! We were a little unsure before visiting but, afterwards, we truly felt like Savoca was the highlight of our trip to Sicily. I hope you get a chance to see this hidden gem for yourself, and that you feel the same way!