“To be in the Mafia, you must be 100 percent Italian, and your bloodlines have to relate straight back to the old country, to Italy, to Sicily, for you to even be a made man.” – Joe Ferrante
There are many places around the world which have become top tourist destinations after they “played a role” in a popular book or a movie. Notably, New Zealand after Lord of The Rings, Ko Phi Phi in Thailand after The Beach, Alnwick Castle in Britain after the Harry Potter series, and many others.
Also, the little town of Corleone in Sicily after The Godfather book by Mario Puzo and the movie trilogy directed by Francis Ford Coppola.
Both in reality and fiction, the small mountain town of Corleone stands 37 miles from the Metropolitan City of Palermo. It is one of the top destinations in Italy due to its popularity from the cult classic.
In the story, the town of Corleone is the birthplace of Vito Corleone, the original Godfather portrayed by Robert De Niro and Marlon Brando.
Vito Corleone manages to escape from the Sicilian blood feud by emigrating to the U.S., where he prospers and builds an American Mafia empire.
After the demise of Vito Corleone, his youngest son Michael Corleone, portrayed by Al Pacino in the movies, succeeds him as the don of the Corleone family.
A less known fact is that Al Pacino’s family tree actually has roots in the town of Corleone, which makes him a true Sicilian. Just like Vito Corleone, Al Pacino’s real-life maternal grandparents, John Gerardi and his wife Kate, migrated to New York City from the town of Corleone long before it became immortalized in Mario Puzo’s novel.
Unlike the don of the Corleone empire, Pacino’s grandparents faced difficulties upon arriving in the States, often struggling to make ends meet.
Pacino spent a lot of time with his grandparents during his childhood, and they, along with his mother were the greatest supporters of his acting ambitions.
Pacino’s father, Salvatore Pacino, is also from Sicily, from the town of San Fratello, which completes his Sicilian descent.
The actor once said: “In America, most everybody who’s Italian is half Italian. Except me. I’m all Italian. I’m mostly Sicilian, and I have a little bit of Neapolitan in me. You get your full dose with me.”
In an interview with Herby Moreau, the legendary actor stated that his background was a broken home and poor family. His parents divorced when he was only two and Pacino was raised by his Sicilian grandparents (the ones from Corleone).
At the age of 17 he dropped out of school, took jobs as a busboy, messenger, clerk, and janitor, and at times he was homeless. His breakthrough came in 1968, when he played a street punk in the play The Indian Wants the Bronx.
And his fame came with the role of Michael Corleone which he landed despite Robert Redford, Jack Nicholson, and Warren Beatty being considered for the part. Coppola decided to give the role to a relatively unknown actor while Pacino, as he later stated in interviews, feared that studio executives might insist on firing him. He wasn’t fired and became one of the most influential actors of this century.
Besides its popularity in fiction, the little town of Corleone is also known as “The City of a 100 Churches.” It has many historical landmarks and natural wonders, and an Anti-Mafia Museum.
It is also the birthplace of some of the most notorious real-life mafia bosses such as Luciano Leggio, Jack Dragna, and Bernardo Provenzano.