Tuscany’s landscape and soft mediterranean light make it the perfect location for film-makers. Its landscapes and towns have featured in countless movies, from “Tea with Mussolini” to “Twilight”. So how about a sightseeing trip planned around your favourite films? You can relive the film, drink in the atmosphere and a glass of fine chianti while you’re at it. Lights, camera….
Tuscany in the movies: from romance to drama
“The English Patient”
Stay a night at the agriturismo Sant’Anna in Camprena monastery near Pienza in Tuscany, where the English patient was nursed by the lovely Juliet Binoche. In the film the landscape is the backdrop to an intense drama. Today it’s a peaceful retreat, that shows no trace of the war that reached here. Just don’t look for those frescoes that she illuminates with a flare. The work of Piero della Francesca, the frescoes are actually in Arezzo, in the Church of San Francesco.
The Sienese countryside, and more specifically the road from Pienza to Podere Terrapille was also the setting for Russell Crowe’s journey home along a white, cypress lined road. Once again the peaceful view is used to contrast the terrible drama that awaits the hero. And views from the Val d’Orcia are used to represent Maximus’ final dream, a perfect landscape for Heaven. No need for photoshop here.
“Much Ado About Nothing”
If you like your Shakespeare, Vigna Villamaggio is the place to go. This splendid estate near Greve in Chianti was in fact the setting for the acclaimed “Much Ado about nothing” directed by Kenneth Branagh in 1993. Gorgeous views and romance in abundance.
“Room with a view”
We know what you’re going to ask, and no, that famous pensione window in “Room with a view” doesn’t exist today. But while you are in Florence, you can always relive Lucy’s experience by renting a room in Hotel degli Orafi. This is the hotel that replaced the original pensione along the banks of the Arno. And if you really want to follow in her footsteps, why not visit the Church of Santa Croce.
“Under the Tuscan Sun”
This is the movie born out of the novel by Frances Mayes that made Cortona famous. It was shot around Montepulciano and Cortona and it’s based on the life of the American writer that bought and restored a house in the scenic hilltop town of Cortona searching for a new life and live the pure Tuscan romance.
“Tea with Mussolini”
The first half of Zeffirelli’s semi-autobiographical war-time drama was shot entirely in Florence. The orphanage where Luca stayed was in fact a real orphanage and an acclaimed piece of architecture: the Ospedale degli Innocenti in the square of Santissima Annunziata. The very first scene of the film is set in the English Cemetery in Piazza Donatello in Florence – an unusual spot, today surrounded by traffic but not without charm. At the end of the story the eccentric group of ladies manage to save one of San Gimigniano‘s famous medieval towers and the Santa Fina Chapel from destruction. The film conjures up a nostalgic view of Tuscany, which for many is still alive today.
“Life is Beautiful”
In Piazza Grande in Arezzo you can ride a bike like Oscar winner Roberto Benigni in “Life is Beautiful”. This is the square that sees Guido and Dora falling in love before the final drama.
If you want to play James Bond, head for Siena during the Palio. If anything the real event is even more dramatic than it’s made to look in “Quantum of Solace”. Alternatively, drive up to the famed marble quarries near Carrara in the Apuan Alps, though perhaps not as fast as Bond does it in Casino Royale.
Exploring the dark side of Florence and Tuscany
For vampire enthusiasts, a trip to Montepulciano is a must. In the second part of the teenage romance saga”New Moon” the director has chosen the elegant main square of Montepulciano to represent the city of the Volturi. You won’t find the fountain though – it was built especially for the film. And diehard fans of the series will tell you that the town mentioned in the book was actually Volterra.
While you’re in town, you can shop at the Officina Santa Maria Novella where the cannibal Lecter buys his scented gift for Clarice in “Hannibal”. Or you can follow his bloody trail to Piazza Signoria and the Porcellino Fountain to see if they look as creepy as they did in the movie. The concert at which he meets Rinaldi’s wife, the charming Allegra (Francesca Neri) is held in the evocative cloister of the Church of Santa Croce, in front of the Pazzi Chapel. Discover the dark side of Florence.
Professor Robert Langdon and his partner in crime Sienna are chased all over Florence and in the process they give us some incredible views of the city. See the Badia Fiorentina bell tower from which mad scientist Zobrist flies to his death, run through Boboli Gardens and explore the secrets of the Palazzo Vecchio, including the eerie Dante Death mask. Special Inferno guided tour are available in Palazzo Vecchio. If you’d like to follow Langdon’s footsteps, check out our article dedicated to reliving “Inferno” in Florence.
Check our our post for more cinematography inspiration and information about the film sets in Tuscany.