The glamorous myth of The Godfather is far from reality – as I discovered on holiday in Sicily
Born in Corleone, Bagarella became the leader of the Corleonesi, the most violent of all mafia clans, who in the 1980s waged war against the Palermo Mafia, a period known as “La Mattanza” (the massacre ), when Mafia activity resulted. in the deaths of hundreds of people, including politicians, magistrates, businessmen, journalists and policemen.
A lover of the film The Godfather, Bagarella was inspired by the figure of Don Corleone and played the main theme of the film during the party to celebrate his marriage to the sister of another mafia boss in the hotel on finest in Palermo. In 1995, he was tried for several murders and sentenced to 13 life terms plus 106 years and 10 months, and solitary confinement for six years. “If he ever gets out,” my guide said, “it will be the end of the world.”
The Mafia’s most violent days, he continued, are over. Now heavily booted and costumed and outwardly at least respectable, he had infiltrated the highest circles of business and politics. Today, he says, they no longer kill people “unless it is strictly necessary”. It was reassuring. One could return with peace of mind to the more peaceful pleasures the island has to offer. Leaving the Museo Antimafia, we retired to the warmth of the only open place, Caffe Ruggirello, opposite the town hall. In the sitting area, the walls were decorated with movie stills and posters of The Godfather. On the counter was a plate of cannoli – an offer impossible to refuse.
Where to stay
Hotel Principe di Villafranca (00 39 0916 11852; princedivillafranca.it) is a charming, friendly boutique hotel located in an exclusive residential area of Palermo, a short walk from the city’s main shopping street and 10 minutes from Teatro Massimo and the old town. Playful artwork decorates its comfortable, minimalist bedrooms as well as the library and lounge, perfect for unwinding after a day of sightseeing. British Airways Holidays is offering seven nights’ B&B at the hotel from £749 pp. Includes flights from Heathrow. See britishairways.com/sicily.
The private Godfather Origins tour, with an experienced guide, winds through the hills south of Palermo, passing Corleone, Porta della Ginestra, the village of Ficuzza – located in a nature reserve – and its Royal Palace, a pavilion of 19th century hunt. From £211 per person, depending on group size. Look for it on tripadvisor.com.