Francis Ford Coppola’s 19th-century Palazzo Margherita, located in a small hilltop town near the Ionian Sea in the unspoiled Basilicata region of southernmost Italy, is described by him as “a dream come true … where the patina of its epoch is preserved.” Bernalda is the town where The Godfather director’s grandfather came from, and Coppola bought the villa in 2004.
The intimate resort, only recently opened, has 7 large suites and 2 garden rooms. Each is a work of art designed by various members of Coppola’s family (daughter Sofia contributed too) along with a preeminent French decorator Jacques Grange, featuring luxurious linens and enormous bathrooms. Several have a large terrace and/or a balcony, while others face the palazzo gardens or look onto the town square.
In the evenings, the salon becomes a private screening room where guests can enjoy one of Coppola’s personally curated collection of 300 classic Italian films and documentaries.
Coppola has said the palazzo, in a rustic part of Italy that has yet to be discovered, is about family, eating well, and being together. Just 40 minutes away is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Matera, where ancient cave dwellings, known as Sassi, have been reclaimed as picturesque churches, homes, museums and restaurants. Small mountain villages dot the surrounding hills, and the beach is only a 20 minutes drive.
The food is traditional Southern Italian, which guests can enjoy on their own if they want, in one of the hotel’s gorgeous settings – from the garden to the Cinecitta Bar. Cooking courses are also offered.
The villa restoration was worked on by local artisans, who collaborated with Grange. The surrounding villages benefit in other ways too, with the staff hired locally – that includes gardeners who tend its herb garden – and a large proportion of the hotel’s produce sourced from surrounding farms. Like Cortijada Los Gazquez in Spain, the palazzo is helping revive outlying regions that are slowly dying as well as taking travelers into parts of the world that time (and tourism) has forgotten.