Pictured above the train station in Bagheria, Sicily. Except that it’s not. It’s actually the Taormina-Giardini train station, located well across the island. (I wrote about it in my piece on Taormina.) Take a look at the photo below, which I took in April of 2012, from a vantage point a few hundred feet back:
Obviously the flooring has been updated since photo number one was taken. But why is the Taormina-Giardini station in that image disguised as Bagheria? Was it someone’s idea of a practical joke? Or perhaps an image from a similar but slightly askew universe?
The answer is that Taormina-Giardini was playing the role of Bagheria in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather Part III. In that much maligned sequel, the Corleones return to Sicily for an opera performance by Anthony, son of Michael. That takes place in Palermo’s vaunted Teatro Massimo, which isn’t far from Bagheria (and, presumably the fictional version of the town Corleone). Here are Michael (Al Pacino), Mary (Sophia Coppola), and Connie Corleone (Talia Shire) greeting Kay (Diane Keaton) after she arrives by train.
That’s just setting the scene. (I want that poster by the way.) A few frames later, we get a look at Michael and Kay, one-time spouses reunited to support their son in his opera debut, as they walk (I believe) north on the platform. Note the clock to the right of Kay’s head, and the biglietteria to the left of Michael.
We took a similar shot (below) the day we arrived. Had I known Godfather III shot a scene here, I might have striven for more accuracy. In any case, you can still see the biglietteria though it’s pretty far back. The clock is obscured by an arrivals and departures screen (also visible, with the ticket booth, in the earlier 2012 photo). Unless the station was altered for the film, which was released in 1990 but takes place in 1979, I’d say it’s in better shape today. In addition to the flooring, globe lamps now hang from the ceiling, the clock appears to be newer and retro-stylized, and the iron work and walls are painted with more contrast. (Although the film was photographed in a muted, dusty palate – nowhere close to matching the brilliance of the first two. In that and other ways.)
I’m not sure if you can actually park there, and I didn’t get a good shot of that end. Here’s a long view looking toward where Neri’s car is, which I remember was where the restrooms were. Indeed, in the first photo, you can see a sign reading toelleta (toilets).
I realized this station appeared in the film upon recently watching it (for the umpteenth time) over the holidays, and only after having traveled there of course. Who knew I’d get so much mileage out of Taormina? Now I can cross another Godfather location off my list. By the way, if you want to see the bar where the hit on Frank Pentangeli was attempted in Part II, it’s on Avenue B and 7th Street in New York: