The Palazzo Margherita in Basilicata, Italy is a boutique hotel that was originally built in 1892 by the Margherita Family of Bernalda. After a major renovation- the estate has been transformed into something altogether magical.
Walking up to the unobtrusive blue washed doors on the main street of Bernalda, I daydreamed of what we would find on the other side. As only guests of the exclusive Palazzo Margherita have keys, we waited patiently for our guide to come and let us in. When the doors opened, we walked onto the palatial grounds, but this was no ordinary hotel. The Palazzo Margherita feels like a private home, one where you are welcomed in as a close family friend- except the family is one of the most famous on the planet.
Francis Ford Coppola came to fame after directing The Godfather in 1972, widely considered one of the best films ever made. Although born in Michigan, his grandparents were immigrants from Italy and he grew up very aware of his ancestral roots. Francis is the Patriarch of the Coppola dynasty, but the other members are incredibly successful in their own right. His daughter Sophia Coppola is an Academy Award winning director with films such as ‘Lost in Translation’ and more recently ‘The Bling Ring’ under her belt. His nephew, Nicholas Coppola, known professionally as Nicholas Cage, is one of Hollywood’s most successful and well-known actors.
It may seem odd to talk about an American Hollywood family when referencing a hotel in a tiny town in Italy- but the Palazzo Margherita is located in the hometown of Agostino Coppola, the paternal grandfather of Francis Ford Coppola. The property became a labour of love for Coppola, who wanted to introduce the undiscovered region of Basilicata to the world. The result is magnificent, luxurious, and somehow entirely laid-back. The boutique hotel that Coppola created is much more than a business venture, it is a second home for Francis and his family, one which they return to every year. Sophia Coppola was even married at the Palazzo in 2011 to her husband Thomas Mars- and one of the suites was created specifically for her wedding night as a gift from her father.
We had a rare opportunity to see inside the Palazzo Margherita without paying the $435-$1,445 a night price tag. A privilege that was definitely not lost on me. Along with a casual tour, they had arranged for us to take a pasta making class inside the incredible on-site kitchen using fresh produce and ingredients from the local area. I had so much fun creating pasta from scratch- and if I say so myself, it was amazingly delicious.
Our tour took us through the rooms as well as suites (there are only nine altogether), which also function as the private rooms for the Coppola family when they visit. Although I wouldn’t normally share pictures of a hotel where I didn’t actually stay, the Palazzo Margherita was so special that I thought I must make an exception. These are a few of my favorite details.
The best part of the day was our lunch out in the garden. Seriously, if you have the money to spend- the food alone is worth the visit. I especially loved listening to our guide, who helps to run the hotel, recount stories of Francis Coppola back in his early days.
She told us about the time when Francis Coppola wanted to have Marlon Brando play the part of Vito Corleone in The Godfather- and the movie studio wasn’t having it. He had sat down with Brando and this little bit of magic happened.
“He was just eating some bread, and you know he put this bread here (inside his lower lip) and he said you know Francis, I imagine Vito would have a talked this way (using the accent he has in the movie with his lip protruded out from the bread).”
It was such a silly story, but it was one she was told from Francis himself- and that little story ended up creating one of the most famous film characters of all time.
While I obviously never sat down with Francis Ford Coppola himself, I feel like I was allowed into a very intimate part of his life. If I ever happen to run into him, I know that we will have something to talk about. A special place in a tiny hill town of Basilicata, where good food and family are at the heart of what it is all about.
I’d highly recommend watching this gorgeous video of Basilicata which Francis Coppola narrates.
Anyone want to chip in with me to stay the night?
Disclaimer: My trip to Palazzo Margherita was organized by Basilicata Tourism as part of their #HelloBasilicata blogger campaign. All content, thoughts and opinions on The Fly Away American are always my own.