The B&R Q&A: Francis Ford Coppola

After a film career that’s spanned decades and resulted in five Academy Awards and two Palme d’Ors, the name Francis Ford Coppola is practically synonymous with cinematic greatness. But, never one to rest on his laurels, the much-lauded writer, director and producer has since expanded into territory familiar to B&R as the owner of multiple hotel properties and wineries around the world.

The Slow Road recently caught up to Francis to discuss our shared passions for storytelling, wine and the simple pleasures of Italy’s south.


The Slow Road: You’ve enjoyed one of the most successful careers in the history of film, but you’ve also made a long career of taking on other ventures. Where do you think your entrepreneurial spirit comes from?

Francis Ford Coppola
Francis Ford Coppola

Francis Ford Coppola: At a certain point in my life I learned that it’s wise to take advantage of one’s impulses – and to pursue things that bring you pleasure. I also learned that if you derive business out of these kinds of things, they are more likely to be successful. Make business out of the things you love.

Let’s talk a bit about your property in Bernalda, the  Palazzo Margherita. You’ve described the property as “a dream come true.” What makes this a dream property for you?  

I had always heard my grandfather’s thoughts about what he called Bernalda bella, passed through his seven sons, including my father. These funny stories of youth in Bernalda – the food, the nearby ocean and the girls – became like myth in my mind. So when finally, at age 21, I visited – the first in my family to do so – I was charmed and felt the stories all had been true.

Olive groves, gorgeous whitewashed villages, charming locals, luscious food, generous hospitality and a stay at Francis Ford Coppola’s stunning Palazzo Margherita. All await you on our Pugila & Basilicata Walking Private trip.

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Locals like your grandfather have long known of its beauty, but the Matera province has remained something of a hidden gem within Italy, and may not be as well known to North Americans. What do you consider some of the region’s hallmarks?  

Italy is well visited, and has been a centre of tourism for many centuries – but there is an unknown part of Italy that was never part of the prescribed tour, mostly in the poorer regions of the south, where most of the immigrants to America had come from. This is an unspoiled Italy, where you’re never ripped off or cheated, but rather met with awe and happiness by the local people. Here you are truly welcomed by people who are genuinely happy you visited their hometown.

Matera
Postcard-perfect Matera, in Italy’s undiscovered Basilicata region.

Basilicata has begun to be of interest for its unique food, customs and sites. This is formerly “Magna Grecia” – the new world to Greeks of the Hellenic period – and thus there are Greek ruins and museums, even towns where people still speak ancient Greek (known as Greco). And of course, the city of Matera, only a half hour from Bernalda, is a must. You can see the ancient caves, the famous sassi where people lived for centuries, and enjoy great restaurants and shops, which carry wonderful delicacies from the area.

What is your favourite way to spend a day at the Palazzo? Paint us a picture of what a special day for you would look like.

The Palazzo is a world to itself, the only “internal” garden in the Basilicata region, a walled garden where I imagine princesses might play—unless a prince climbed over the wall. The Palazzo, designed by the great Jacques Grange, is where I love to relax – whether it be the gardens or the pool or courtyard. But you are only a step away from the centre of the town of Bernalda. In the past the town was so poor that the people had to entertain themselves; as a result, there’s always a festa or a wild boar festival or beauty pageant or band concert on in town.

In addition to your famous film career, you share B&R’s passion for wine, and have made a career out of winemaking. It’s one thing to love wine, it’s quite another to make it. What drove you to roll up your sleeves (or your pant legs, as it were) and become a winemaker?

It goes back to what I said earlier, about making business out of the things I love. By allowing myself the privilege of working with the things that I love, I enjoyed being part of the sudden and significant passion for wine that the American public has now experienced.

And sticking with wine, this can be a downright cruel question to ask an oenophile, but do you have a favourite bottle of wine?

I once had a memorable experience with several bottles of Romanée Conti from the early 70s…

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