The authentic location for a Mafia movie maybe Sicily, but the fact that important parts of Godfather were shot in Marseille, gives a hint on what to expect from the place. Located on the beautiful southeast coast of France, Marseille is France’s second largest city after Paris and the largest city on the Mediterranean coast.
The city basks in sunshine and the glitter of European celebrities throughout the year, I am told. I was there in March, and I experienced the full blast of justifiably renowned Mediterranean summers. The drive along the coast was the highlight for me. It is not a stretch of sandy beaches – it is cliffy and rocky, and that is where the Godfather bit looks most authentic. While driving, lets say, if the sea is on the right, on the left you would see beautiful white villas, where one can assume a lot of Al Capone-type characters would be planning their next blast! At least that’s what I thought, though I may be wrong.
Going back further in history of fiction, there is, in the Bay of Marseille, the Frioul archipelago which comprises four islands, one of which has the Château d’If, made famous by the Alexander Dumas’ novel The Count of Monte Cristo. This Chateau is where the hero of the novel, Edmond Dantes is imprisoned, and where he is helped by another prisoner in finding a treasure and in digging his way out. It is one of the most famous 19th century French novels, and the Chateau, imagined as a prison, does not fail to raise goose pimples.
Overlooking the entire area is the beautiful basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde. Though the current basilica was built in 1864, it has a long history. It was built on a foundation of an important 16th century fort. The history of resistance to invaders and of its vault is interesting, but for the tourist, the greatness of the place lies in its photogenic nature. Upon holy oath I can give the assurance that even the weirdest of photographers, with a malfunctioning camera, will take awesome photographs here. You just can’t go wrong.
Marseille has a great nightlife and unadulterated French culture—from outdoor markets to indoor museums. Sailing from the port of Marseille, for those who can do it, and I was not fortunate enough, is heavenly. Yachts can be chartered – an expensive affair – and one can visit a lot of places in the Mediterranean, especially the islands. The line of yachts parked in the ports along the coast, are extremely tempting. They can easily make one want to join the Godfather.