Here we explore some great films set in Tuscany. Some truly great cinematic experiences that all have one thing in common: the setting.
Italy has always looked good on screen, and Tuscany with its picture-perfect landscapes and cities filled with awe-inspiring architecture have given many directors visual inspiration. So without further ado, we’d like to introduce you to some of our personal favourites, to get you in the mood for your next Tuscan holiday.
Films set in Tuscany – Classic titles
The “English patient” by Anthony Minghella is a timeless classic; an excruciatingly dramatic love story that won 9 Oscars no less. Ralph Fiennes relives the memory of a passionate love affair, while being nursed by the lovely Juliette Binoche. The setting is wartime Val d’Orcia, one of the most scenic parts of Tuscany. The beauty of the soft rolling landscapes seems to add emphasis to the drama lived out by the protagonists. You can actually stay in the same building where the movie was shot: today the Sant’Anna in Camprena Monastery is a lovely agriturismo.
Another wartime drama that won an Oscar for Best Foreign Film, is the bittersweet “Life is beautiful”, directed by and starring Roberto Benigni. The controversial story of family loss and the horrors of the holocaust is also a moving tale of fatherly love. Benigni, himself a native of Tuscany, plays a jovial waiter from Arezzo. The town is the backdrop to the beginning of the film, and the beautiful square that Benigni cycles through is the Medieval Piazza Grande. This was one of the films set in Tuscany to receive international acclaim. It also won Benigni an Oscar for best actor.
“Tea with Mussolini” is a quintessentially Italian classic; a semi-autobiographical tale based on the childhood memories of director Franco Zeffirelli. The film charts the story of a group of eccentric, art-loving English ladies in Florence during the war, and their love of Italian art. In a very moving scene at the end of the film, they risk their lives to protect a Medieval tower and some frescoes in San Gimignano. Whether any of this really happened we can’t be sure, but the fresco and the towers are definitely still there.
From Romance to the Romans – Room with a View to Gladiator
On a lighter note, the ultra romantic “Room with a view” by James Ivory, shows the amorous and exotic side of Florence. The free spirited Italian city fires up the passions of a young English woman named Lucy, and she ends up falling in love and abandoning her upper-middle class repression. The pensione where Lucy stayed doesn’t exist anymore, but the wonderful sunsets on the river Arno are still very much there. The film won 3 Oscars including one for costume design. But it’s Florence itself that really steals the show here.
From romance to the Romans. And who doesn’t remember the famous scene in Ridley Scott‘s “Gladiator” when the dying Maximus sees himself walking slowly home through the fields, running his hands over the spears of wheat. After so much war and tragedy, he’s going to his rest, and that winding road lined with cypress trees. The scene was in fact filmed in the Sienese countryside, near Pienza, a heavenly sight indeed. Amongst other awards, Gladiator won best picture and best actor for Russell Crowe.
Films that explore the darker side of Tuscany
Recently there have been a few films set in Tuscany, that reveal its darker side. One of them is “Hannibal” where the dangerously hungry Anthony Hopkins walks the streets of Florence leaving a trail of blood behind him.
While we’re on the subject of blood, we can’t forget “Twilight” the second part of the New Moon saga. Fans of this vampire franchise should know that the scene where Cullen is saved by Bella was filmed in Montepulciano, and not in Volterra as many people believe.
Lastly, but certainly not least, there’s Ron Howard’s “Inferno”. And here Florence is once again in the limelight. Based on the best-selling thriller by Dan Brown it involves old palaces, the death mask of the father of Italian language Dante Alighieri, a map of Hell drawn by Botticelli, and plenty of fascinating old Florentine mysteries.
If the filmic side of Tuscany interests you, have a look at our article about film locations in Tuscany.