Things to do in Savoca: the ultimate travel guide

    Panorama of the village of savoca

    Are you a fan of The Godfather, do you want to visit the Bar Vitelli and are you wondering what are the things to do in Savoca? Not interested in the saga of director Francis Ford Coppola, but still want to visit one of the Most Beautiful Villages in Sicily? Well, this is the guide for you. In fact, Savoca has so much to offer and definitely deserves a thorough visit to all its monuments.

    Things to do in Savoca: the tour of the village

    Savoca is a small village that can be visited entirely on foot in one day. The car or vehicle must be left at the foot of the village, in one of the paid parking lots along the provincial road. The route to discover all the things to see in Savoca is quite obligatory. Once you have passed through the old town gate, take the only road that crosses the whole village, Via San Michele, which then becomes Via Chiesa Madre. This road leads to the Church of the Mother and immediately to the Church of the Calvary, and then back to the starting point.

    Nino Ucchino's donkey statue in Savoca
    The immortal donkey, 2012 – Nino Ucchino

    Your journey to discover the things to do in Savoca begins before you enter the village. Almost at Piazza Fossia, the main square of the village, you will notice on the right a statue of a donkey. It is one of the works of the artist Nino Ucchino, famous all over the world for his great skill in working with steel. If you put a coin in the base of the statue, the donkey will tell you the story of Savoca in Ucchino’s voice. If you wish, you can also visit the artist’s workshop: the Nino Ucchino Steel Art Gallery. Inside you can see his sculptures and some of his paintings.

    Piazza Fossia

    Nino Ucchino's installation dedicated to Francis Ford Coppola in Fossia Square in Savoca.
    F.F. Coppola – Nino Ucchino

    After visiting Nino Ucchino’s workshop, the itinerary of Savoca can start from Piazza Fossia, the main square of the town. The lower part of the square was decorated in 1989 with ceramic panels in bas-relief depicting the most important events and monuments of Savoca. Arriving at the center of the square, you will immediately recognize the installation by Nino Ucchino, a tribute to the director Francis Ford Coppola, who shot some scenes of the first Godfather here. Also in the square is an installation by another great Sicilian sculptor. The work is called The Mother and was created by Giuseppe Mazzullo.

    Bar Vitelli

    The façade of Bar Vitelli in Savoca
    The Bar Vitelli

    In Piazza Fossia there is also the Bar Vitelli, a place that every fan of the Godfather trilogy will put at the top of the list of things to do in Savoca. In fact, the famous scenes of the meeting between Michael Corleone and the father of Apollonia, his future wife, were filmed here. The bar is located on the ground floor of one of the most beautiful historical buildings in Savoca: Palazzo Trimarchi. Even today, Bar Vitelli maintains a magical, timeless atmosphere. If you decide to sit down, you must try the lemon granita with zibibbo, accompanied by a “zuccarata”, a typical Savoca biscuit. Inside there is a small photographic museum of the Godfather with pictures taken during the week of shooting. The second floor has been renovated and some nice hotel rooms have been created.

    The city gate of Savoca

    The ancient entrance gate to the village of Savoca
    City gate of Savoca

    The real sightseeing of Savoca begins as soon as you pass the city gate. It was built by the Normans in the 12th century, when they decided to protect the town by surrounding it with a defensive wall. Of the two gates that existed at that time, this is the only one that has survived. Both had an iron gate that was opened at dawn and closed at dusk. Until the 19th century, St. Michael’s Street, the road that passes under the arch, was actually a steep staircase carved into the rock. Fortunately, today there are cobblestones that make a visit to Savoca a little easier.

    The Church of San Michele Arcangelo

    The facade of the Church of St. Michael Archangel in Savoca
    The Church of San Michele Arcangelo

    The first church you come across is the church of San Michele Arcangelo. Built at the beginning of the 9th century, it was rebuilt in the 15th century in baroque style. The façade has two splendid sandstone portals in Gothic-Sicilian style, reminiscent of those in the Cathedral of Messina. The interior has a single nave with splendid Baroque decorations and an 18th century wooden ceiling. In 2015, thanks to funds raised through a crowdfunding project, the first four paintings of a cycle of frescoes decorating the walls were restored.

    The Ethno-anthropological Museum

    The ethnoanthropological museum of Savoca

    To the right of the church of San Michele Arcangelo is the Ethno-anthropological Museum of Savoca. The building was erected on the ruins of a Renaissance palace in order to give a proper place to a permanent exhibition on the peasant world, which dates back to 1984 and is housed in the Town Hall. Inside there are some cycles of work related to the peasant world, such as those of the woodcutter, the shepherd or the baker. Ancient tools and various implements typical of these trades are exhibited. In the museum it is also possible to listen to some ancient Sicilian folk songs.

    The Church of Gesù e Maria

    The Church of Jesus and Mary in Savoca
    Remains of the Church of Gesù e Maria

    Near the Church of the Archangel Michael are the remains of the Church of Gesù e Maria. Dating back to the 16th century, it is the only remaining testimony in Savoca of a confraternity present in the village, called Jesus and Mary. Although today only the outer walls are visible, it is still possible to feel the architectural beauty of the original building. The high altar that adorned this church, built in the 17th century in Baroque style, is now in the Church of the Holy Family in Santa Teresa di Riva.

    The Church of San Nicolò

    The Church of St. Nicholas or Church of St. Lucy in Savoca
    The Church of San Nicolò

    The itinerary to discover the things to do in Savoca continues with the Church of San Nicolò, which is also the second of the Savoca locations used in the filming of The Godfather. The wedding scene between Michael Corleone and Apollonia was filmed here. The church dates back to the 12th century, although its present appearance is the result of heavy alterations in the 18th century. The church houses several works of art, including a 14th century painting of St. Michael the Archangel and a 17th century wooden statue of the Immaculate Conception. Also inside is the statue of Santa Lucia, which is carried in procession through the streets of the village every year. The feast of St. Lucia is celebrated on the second Sunday of August and is the most important event in Savoca.

    Savoca Philharmonic Center

    Savoca Philharmonic Center
    Savoca Philharmonic Center

    Continuing our exploration of the village of Savoca, we come to the Philharmonic Center. It is located in the former church of the Immaculate Conception and has the distinctive shape of a wooden boat inside. The church was built in 1621 by the monks of St. Francis. By 1940, however, the building, now abandoned, began to deteriorate. As a result of the restoration work, an important cultural venue for the village was created. The ground floor has a capacity of fifty seats, and in the sanctuary there is a staircase leading to the second floor, where there are another sixty seats.

    Pentefur Castle

    The ruins of the Pentefur Castle in Savoca
    The ruins of the Pentefur Castle in Savoca

    Just in front of the Savoca Philharmonic Center are the stairs leading to the ruins of Pentefur Castle. The property is not open to the public, but belongs to the Nicòtina family. Therefore, it is not always possible to visit this place in Savoca. According to a legend, the castle was built by five mysterious thieves who escaped from the prison of Taormina. The castle was probably built in late Roman or Byzantine times and renovated by the Normans in 1070. In an area of about 350 meters you can still see the remains of what was the keep of the castle.

    The mother church of Savoca

    The facade of the Mother Church of Savoca
    The mother church of Savoca

    And so we come to the mother church of Savoca, dedicated to Santa Maria in Cielo Assunta. It is one of the oldest churches and its construction dates back to 1130. Its current appearance is a fusion of different architectural styles. The portal and the rose window on the façade are Renaissance, as are the decorations inside the apse. During the restoration works carried out in 2002, fragments of Byzantine frescoes depicting two saints were found. In the crypt of the church you can still see the area of the putridarium, where the bodies of the notables of Savoca were mummified and then transported to the Capuchin monastery. Just behind the church, you can admire a medieval house with a splendid mullioned window in its façade.

    The Church of Calvario

    The exterior of the Calvary Church in Savoca
    The Church of Calvario

    The last stop on this tour of the sights of Savoca is the Church of Calvario. But first an important note. The church is located on a small hill and to reach it you have to climb about forty steps. At the top you will find a deconsecrated church that cannot be visited inside. The view is certainly magnificent, but you may not be interested in making the effort. This is the last station of the Way of the Cross, which is celebrated in Savoca every year on Good Friday. It is a very old tradition, dating back to the 15th century, when the fourteen Stations of the Cross were partially carved into the rock. They were restored in 1735 by the Jesuit Fathers and now they have been replaced by terracotta images.

    The Capuchin Convent and the Savoca Mummies

    The facade of the Capuchin Convent in Savoca
    The Capuchin Convent of Savoca

    Once you have finished your visit to the Church of the Calvario, you can return to the Mother Church and take the road on the right, Via Pentifurri, which will take you back to the beginning of the town. In fact, there is one last stop to complete the list of things to see in Savoca: the Capuchin Convent and its mummies. We start by visiting the church of the monastery, dedicated to St. Joseph. Inside the church, which has a single nave, there is a painting of the Madonna of the Water and a painting of the Madonna and Child among angels with St. Francis and St. Clare from 1661. In the crypt of the church there are the mummified bodies of 37 figures of the Savoca aristocracy, who lived between the 19th and 20th centuries, still wearing the clothes of that time. If this does not impress you, it is certainly very interesting to see this tradition alive, which was widespread in Sicily in the past.

    Things to do in Savoca: other sights near the village

    After visiting the village of Savoca, if you wish, you can devote yourself to exploring the surrounding area. In the nearby village of Casalvecchio Siculo, for example, you can admire the splendid church of Saints Peter and Paul of Agrò, built in the Sicilian-Norman style. If you want to visit something really special, ten minutes by car from Savoca is Kontiland Park.

    Kontiland: artistic Sicily in miniature

    Some installations in Kontiland, artistic Sicily in miniature park
    Some installations in Kontiland, artistic Sicily in miniature park

    Kontiland, artistic Sicily in miniature, is a theme park located in the hamlet of Rina, just a few minutes from Savoca. It was officially born in 2017 from the idea of Giuseppe Lo Conti, a former bricklayer with a great passion for the Sicilian artistic heritage. Lo Conti makes scale reproductions of the most important Sicilian monuments and today the park has more than 30 of them. It is open every day except Monday and during the summer it is possible to book a night tour.

    Sergio Campolo

    I graduated in Economics and Management in Rome, I worked for 6 years in Milan especially in Web Marketing and now I live in Trento. In 2021 I founded The World of Sicily with the aim of making the beauties of this region known to the whole world.

    Leave a Reply

    See also