Looking for the Godfather in Corleone
Corleone is probably the most infamous town in Sicily, and as such you would think it could attract throngs of tourists, but that is not the case. And having been there, I can’t say I blame them.
We drove into Corleone on a weekday in late Octobre on a mixture of thrill and trepidation. A welcoming sign announced that we had entered the ‘Capitale Mondiale della Legalita’, but I was not convinced. Corleone did after all foster some of the most notorious and brutal mafia gangsters of the last 50 years, and the clan has been protagonists in a bloody power struggle that may – or may not – be over. It was around noon, all the shops had just closed, and school children were waiting at the bus stop for a ride home. Everything looked peaceful and ordinary.
No Signs of Hollywwod
Before we began exploring the town, we wanted to get something to eat, but there were remarkably few restaurants around and the first one we saw called ‘La Tavernetta dei Briganti’ made it absolutely clear, they were not open to our kind of business. Instead we ended up in ‘Pastificcio Russo’ serving nice, homemade pasta, and while eating we were kept company by a large group of Americans who seemed to belong here.
After lunch we walked through the quiet streets into the old centre of town. Judging from the of extension of town and the number of houses, it is hard to believe that Corleone has a population of only 10.000 people.
This may of course explain, why most of the houses were in a sorry state of disrepair and could do with a new coat of paint. If the people in this town had made fortunes on drugs and extortion, they were hiding it well. In between there were old churches, steep and narrow streets, recent murals, mediaeval palaces and sunny squares, where 2-3 old men in oversized dark suits debated the issues of the day.
I looked in vain for scenes reminding me of the Godfather Trilogy , which has contributed massively to the fame of Corleone the village, but found nothing. Apparently the people of Corleone were not keen on letting the film crew in, so all the Sicilian scenes were filmed in other locations on the island.
Museum, Miracle and Waterfall
We checked in on the C.I.D.M.A. anti-mafia museum and found that a tour should have been booked in advance, so we decided to head out for ‘Cascata delle Due Rocche’, a waterfall not not far from the centre of town. It was a nice walk through the San Giuliano neighbourhood, until we found the white church dedicated to the Madonna delle Due Rocche. According to local legend a picture of the Madonna was found here in a hole in a rock some time before 1651, when the original church was inaugurated. And the church is still a point of pilgrimage in the month of May.
On this particular day the door was locked, so we continued along the canyon expecting to find a comfortable seat “on ancient square boulders, in the shade of mulberry trees, walnuts and ash trees [where] you can observe the suggestive spectacle of the waterfall. The leap of the water of the stream has, with its erosive action, formed a large pool between the calcarenite rocks. A noticeable vapour rises from the foamy water that the sun transforms into sparkling rainbows” as promised by the Italian Wikipedia.
At this point in time, however, there was no sign of the waterfall. A long period of drought over summer and fall had dried out the stream and only a very small puddle of water remained under a carpet of lush green vegetation. We did identify the ruins of a mediaeval aqueduct and an ancient mill and would have enjoyed a panorama of Corleone and the strangely eroded landscape, if it had not been for a tall fence blocking out the view.
All in all, I did not see any of the things I had expected to find in Corleone. The town has the same kind of atmosphere as Acri, Castrovillari and San Giovanni in Fiore in Calabria. Places where I have felt more tolerated than welcome, and where people seem to follow you with their eyes without moving the head.
That’s just an arbitrary feeling that can be caused by prejudice and stereotypes. But still, I’m not sure I like it.