The movie cinema Paradiso is a classic of world-class Italian cinema, and a sublime tribute to cinema, to the nostalgia of childhood and first love. Filmed in 1988 in different locations in Sicily, in this post I will detail a route to do by car for the locations where the incredible Cinema Paradiso was filmed.
I saw this movie for the first time when I was 11 years old, and at that time it impacted me so much that even today I go back to see it from time to time to resignify it with new data, appreciations and details that I am getting to know. I was even able to see it in its different edition versions, since the version edited by the director in a first cut was much longer and with scenes that never appeared in the international version (which finally ends up winning the Oscar for best foreign film).
For this reason, even without going to Sicily, I am going to mark the filming points on the map and draw up a possible route to explore these locations (and to have a travel plan ready for my pending itinerary through Sicily, which I hope will be soon) . I simply want to share this route plan with those who are movie buffs and fans of this jewel of cinema.
The village of Cinema Paradiso
The director of the movie New Cinema Paradiso Giurseppe Tornatoreof Sicilian origin, was born and lived his childhood in the town of bagheria. Some of the inspiration for his film is autobiographical and is taken from Tornatore’s own life in this town. Even the endearing character of Alfredo (Phillipe Noiret, the Cinema Paradiso cinema operator) is inspired by a real character named Mimmo Pintacuda. In director Tornatore’s childhood, Pintacuda was a photographer who also operated a movie theater and who taught him many things about film and photography in his childhood. A very essential trigger for the story of the film.
However, the central town of the film is fictional and appears as “Giancaldo”. Actually, that fictional town called Giancaldo is shown in the film through filming locations of different towns in Sicily.
The square of Cinema Paradiso.
The town square of Hadrian’s Palace It is the epicenter of most of the film’s scenes that recreate the fictional Giancaldo, and the place where the already mythical Cinema Paradiso building was located (it was a building built as a film set for the film in the same square, and therefore does not exist as such). However, it is in this square where so many endearing scenes take place. It’s about the Umberto I square with the Ottagonal Fountain (from the year 1608), an unavoidable site on this route through the sites where Cinema Paradiso was filmed. The Cinema Paradiso set was located exactly at the intersection of Via Nino Bixio with the SS188 road, and opposite is the house where Alfredo performs his magic act and projects the Italian comedy film “I Pompieri Di Viggiu” on the wall .
The churches of the square
On the same square there are two churches that also appear in the film. The most imposing is Church Maria Santísima Assunta which appears in two scenes: the one with the women spreading tomato paste on wood (and being hassled by the character who always claims ownership of the square), and the scene where Toto as a teenager is sitting on the steps pondering whether leave the village of Giancaldo. Alfredo’s funeral takes place in the other smaller and typically Italian church (Chiesa de María del Lume).
Other locations where Cinema Paradiso was filmed.
As I said, there are numerous places that were used for filming and to build what is the town of Giancaldo. For example the Ruins of Poggioreale (a village destroyed by an earthquake) were used as a setting in which Toto as a child walks with his mother in a supposed war-bombed site (where the mother cries upon learning of Toto’s father’s death). Also important in the filming were points such as Cefalù and the industry of Marine Porthole, where Toto as a teenager has an unexpected romantic encounter with Elena in the rain while screening movies outdoors. Or the Castle of Ventimiglia in Castelbuono that served as exteriors of Toto’s childhood school.
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The route through the places where Cinema Paradiso was filmed
The points and the route to do in the part of Sicily where most of the filming points are concentrated are indicated on the map. The idea if we want to do this route is to start from Palermo (the most important city in the area and with an airport where you can rent a car) since most of the places are in the northwest of the island.
The point-by-point route
The route that I propose to take goes point by point joining the main filming sites. In total, it is an itinerary that adds up to 237 km and if it were continuous driving it can be done in 4 hours 41 minutes (this without counting the distance between Palermo and the first point of the itinerary). Although it would be recommended to do it in two or more days to also enjoy a night on the road in beautiful towns such as Cefalù.
From Palermo the suggested route is as follows:
1. Ruins of Poggioreale > 2. chiusa sclafani > 3. Hadrian’s Palace (the central location of the film) > 4. bagheria (director’s hometown) > 5. Saint Flavia > 6. San Nicola l’Arena > 7. Termini Imerese > 8. Lascari (train station where Toto says goodbye) > 9. Cefalù > 10. Castello dei Ventimiglia in Castelbuono (representation of the school where Toto went in childhood)
The map of the route and the places where Cinema Paradiso was filmed
This is the map with all the details of the points and the itinerary. You can also click on each point to see the explanation of the place and the importance within the film.
To finish, just say that this cinephile tour of the places where Cinema Paradiso was filmed is just a good excuse to head to Sicily, and explore much more there. In the blog there is also an idea of a route through the most beautiful villages in Sicily.