Going “Home”: Our Trip to Sicily, Part I

October 2, 2015

When your dad is an Italian aficionado and a fanatic for “The Godfather” movies, nothing says “happy birthday” like a trip to Sicily.


As a special present to celebrate my dad’s birthday, I planned a trip to Sicily for the two of us. After a brief sojourn in London (click here for that story), the Mediterranean leg of our excursion began with a flight into Catania. I had arranged a VIP Host with our Italian partner, I.D.I. Travel, to meet us at the airport and serve as our tour guide for the duration of our stay. I was absolutely floored when we were greeted by my dear friend, Filippo Curinga, the President of the company! He drove 12 hours from his home base near Venice so he could show my father and me around personally. I’m still amazed by the kindness of this gesture and so thankful we got to discover the beauty of Sicily with his guidance.






He drove us to The Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo, a breathtaking property set in the eastern hills of Sicily, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. We stayed in an exquisite two-bedroom suite with a lovely terrace and views of the water and Mount Etna in the distance. My father loved the beautiful gardens that peppered the property.




We relaxed a bit before meeting Filippo for an aperitivo at the hotel-bar terrace. He then took us to one of his favorite local restaurants, Il Barcaiolo by the harbor, where we dined on incredibly fresh seafood, all locally caught that day. It’s funny – when most Americans think of Italian food, they think of chicken parm, pizza and red sauce, but the cuisine we feasted on in Sicily was nothing like that at all. Growing up in New York, we were heavily influenced by Italian-American culture. I think my dad was a bit surprised by the emphasis on seafood and light, fresh ingredients. The food was fantastic, and we loved the authentic experience.


The next day, we toured the areas surrounding Taormina where many scenes from “The Godfather” trilogy were filmed. Movie buff or not, there’s no denying the uniqueness of this place. This area is steeped in natural beauty and architectural grandeur.


sicily bar



My father so excited, and we went straight Savoca, a village near Taormina set in the foothills of the Peloritani Mountains. This is what my father had been waiting for! He recognized every location immediately and described each relevant movie scene with vigor and detail. We stopped at the infamous Bar Vitelli, one of Francis Ford Coppola’s favorite spots and a familiar setting to any “Godfather” fan. The“Godfather” bobblehead, an imperative gift shop purchase for my dad, went with us everywhere.






We also visited the church of St. Lucy, where the wedding between Apollonia and Michael was shot, and took a stroll in Forza D’Agro, a lovely town with breathtaking views also featured in the movies.



Another stop on our tour was Castello degli Schiavi, a beautiful castle that’s the setting of a few important movie scenes, including Michael’s death in “Godfather III.” If you’d like to see that reenacted, check out the video below. Turns out my dad’s quite the thespian.



That evening, the two of us stumbled upon a restaurant near our hotel that looked promising. I was ready for a quiet evening, but of course my father, forever convivial, struck up a conversation with nearby patrons—a mother and daughter from Stockholm and a young couple from France. Our private dinner turned into a group affair, and we had another surprisingly enchanting and eventful evening sharing stories and experiences. Isn’t that what traveling is all about?





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