Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny: Filming Locations in Sicily

After more than 15 years, Harrison Ford returns to our screens with the fifth instalment of the legendary adventure franchise, Indiana Jones. Aged 80 years, there’s a final adventure left in Ford as he dons his cowboy hat, khakis, and bullwhip once again. The premise of this sequel is ‘fitting into a world that seems to have outgrown him’. In this adventure, Ford is joined by Phoebe Waller-Bridge of Fleabag fame, and Mads Mikkelsen, who you’ll recall from Casino Royale, as well as his old trustworthy sidekick, Sallah, played by John Rhys-Davies.  

With its spellbinding natural beauty and plentiful archaeological treasures, the southern Italian island of Sicily is an obvious location for the legendary explorer. A 600-strong crew were on location, with some actors reportedly dressed as Roman soldiers, which may provide some clues to a time-travelling storyline in this long-awaited sequel.  

Wondering where Indiana Jones was filmed? Well, you’ll be pleased to hear that we’ve unearthed the filming locations, so that you can have your own Indiana Jones moments in Sicily. Let Citalia take you into the heart of the action! 

Syracuse

On the east coast, Syracuse takes you into the sheer timelessness of Sicily, as you immerse yourself in a thousand-year-old city, with an even older origin story. Syracuse’s Old Town, known as Ortigia, is in fact a small island, but is connected by little bridges. Roam the medieval streets and decadent Baroque piazzas, and discover an impressive collection of ancient Greek ruins, as you breathe in the salty sea air of the nearby sparkling waters.  

Parco Archeologico della Neapolis

One of Sicily’s greatest archaeological sites is the Neapolis Archaeological Park, which dates back to 734 BC and was one of the largest cities in the ancient world. It’s a classicist’s dream - and an ideal spot for Indiana Jones! Unsurprisingly, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site.  

All in all, we recommend about an hour and a half to visit the park, which you can enjoy independently or on a private guided tour.  

At the entrance of the park, you’ll find a second century Anfiteatro Romano (Roman amphitheatre), where horse races and bloody combat took place between gladiators and, occasionally, wild beasts. It’s one of the more recent monuments, so is usually left until the end of a tour. Sadly, much of the amphitheatre was destroyed by Spanish conquerors in the 16th century. You’ll also find the Altar of Hieron, allegedly the largest stone altar ever built by the ancient Greeks, where bulls would be sacrificed on feast days to honour the Greek god of sky and thunder, Zeus.  

The pièce de résistance of the archaeological park is its 5th century BC Teatro Greco (Greek Theatre), which was rebuilt in the 3rd century. It’s best viewed at its lowest position to give you a sense of size. You’ll find a few artificial caves surrounding it, some of which are believed to have been used to supply water for mock naval battles, and also as burial sites in the Byzantine age. At one point, this impressive amphitheatre could have accommodated an audience of up to 16,000 to watch all the famous tragedies of its time. Even today, you’ll find a season of classical theatre running from early May until early July.  

You can also explore the Latomia del Paradiso (Paradise Quarry), an ancient limestone cave that is teeming with catacombs, but has also bloomed into a beautiful Mediterranean garden of citrus and magnolia trees.  

Orecchio di Dionisio

You’ll find Syracuse’s most famous cave in the park: Orecchio di Dionisio (the Ear of Dionysius), a wide and deep cavern whose mouth is usually framed by ferns. This features in Indiana Jones as an old mine. The renowned Italian painter Caravaggio believed its shape resembles a human ear and so gave the cave its name. Legend has it that the Greek tyrant Dionysius the Elder imprisoned his enemies here so that he could use the perfect echoing chambers to eavesdrop on them - and possibly even relished listening to their torture. While access to hear the sound from the top of the cave has been restricted in recent years, you can still test the acoustics for yourself from the cavern floor!  

Grotta Dei Cordari

Also inside the park, you’ll find the Grotta dei Cordari (the Ropemakers’ Cave), which features in the film. It’s so named because skilled family craftsmen worked here for many centuries, using their legs and hands to stretch, twist, and weave rope out of hemp, coconut, and agave, from dawn until sunset each day. A popular attraction through the centuries, this cave has been depicted in several significant historical and religious paintings. The last ropemaker left in 1984 when the cave was at risk of collapse and due to the onslaught of industrial methods. The cave was reopened to the public in 2021, after 40 years of closure.  

Castello Maniace

Right at the tip of Ortigia stands a great 13th century Gothic citadel, Castello Maniace, which features in this year’s epic film, with scenes featuring horses, gunfire, and smoke! Built on rocks, it’s been continually restored and restructured through history. There’s a small antiquarium that features many artefacts found on site, however you might simply wish to gaze across the waters and dream of another time. 

Cefalù

In northern Sicily lies the coastal city of Cefalù, home to a pretty fishing boat-lined port and gorgeous beaches that laze alongside a great 12th century Arab-Norman cathedral. It’s an architectural masterpiece, with Byzantine mosaics and heady towers, all to a backdrop of mountains. The Italian film classic Cinema Paradiso was set here, and it’s no wonder, as Cefalù really does feel like a paradise!  

Filming locations included the marina, and the beautiful main beach of Lungomare. On a typical day, if you head down to the promenade, you’ll usually find it lined with trattorie and cafés rather than a film crew. Streets and houses around Piazza Duomo were transformed into the 1960s era for the film, complete with a traditional barber shop and café. Head to Lilies Caffè in Piazza Bagni di Cicerone, to see if you can recognise it from the film! 

Trapani

The lesser visited province of Trapani in the west of Sicily also got thrown into the limelight. 

Castellammare del Golfo

One venue of choice was the historic town of Castellammare del Golfo. The literal Italian translation of ‘Sea Fortress on the Gulf’ is apt as you’ll find a medieval fortress in the harbour. It’s not the first time film crews have been here - Ocean’s Twelve was also filmed nearby, as was an Inspector Montalbano episode (The Sense of Touch).  

Some say that Castellammare del Golfo has the most beautiful peninsula in all of Sicily, so you may wish to unwind along the coast here. You’ll find a lovely lido culture with watersports at La Plaja. We heard word that one lucky visitor found Harrison Ford’s credit card on the beach, which he apparently lost while out strolling during a filming break.  

There are steep, winding streets up to the main town centre, which is where Roman gladiators were seen roaming during filming.  

Should you wish to explore further, the major city of the province is likewise called Trapani, and just a 40-minute drive away. It has many historical sites, including the Torre di Ligny (an astronomical clock), a pretty 19th century park, an atmospheric fish market, and an 18th century Spanish church that holds many mysteries. 

Marsala  

A 30-minute drive southwest of Trapani lies the town that famously holds the nectar of the gods, marsala wine. Crucial to the new Indiana Jones plot, a yacht was filmed sinking here!  

Marsala has always been a strategically important port town for the many rulers over the centuries. What you’ll also find here is centuries old, still-working salt pans, which are home to native and migratory birds, windmills, and a fabulous network of waterways and pools. Take your time here - it’s well worth going on a boat tour and visiting the salt museum and the nearby nature reserve of Il Stagnone. You’ll also be able to explore beautiful Baroque architecture, an archaeological museum, and two fabulous white sand beaches. Plus, there are the local wineries to scrutinise too of course, which we highly recommend you do! Head to the historical Cantine Florio, one of Italy’s oldest wineries.  

Segesta  

With origins as far back as the ancient Elymians, one of the three indigenous peoples of Sicily, Segesta invites you back to a simpler time.  

More inland, it’s a tucked away spot of both barren hills and woodland, and at the top of one such hill you’ll unearth a great treasure: the Temple of Segesta.  

This beautifully preserved ancient temple is believed to have been built around 420 BC, and is considered one of Europe’s best examples of Doric architecture. What’s more incredible is that historians and scientists concluded that this was simply a draft and abandoned it before it was completed. They came to this conclusion as the pillars don’t have bases, and there’s no sign of walls or a roof ever having been built, nor was it ever painted or ornamented, so the temple’s purpose remains a mystery.  

To visit, we recommend you take the shuttle bus, or go early in the morning and take a somewhat steep walk up the hill. 

Call us today to speak to one of our Italy Experts for further travel advice, hotel recommendations or to begin planning your next Italian holiday.
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