Mark and I joined a small tour group to navigate the areas we would visit in Italy. Here's a sneak preview of our destinations, about which more will be described in upcoming entries:
ROME. This was our first taste of Italy, a city of amazing energy, interesting faces, great wealth and poverty, antiquity and zeitgeist. It is a city of contrasts. It is a stunning city where history lives on in custom. It is a city of religious devotion, great beauty, and passionate people.
We stayed for the first three nights in a modest part of town, within walking distance of most attractions. We would see the Vatican, the Forum, the Colosseum and the Pantheon; walk the Spanish Steps, and be lured to world-class shopping on the same street where Valentino has his studio; and, as custom and tourism dictate, we would throw coins over our shoulders into the Trevi Fountain.
Rome is a popular location for many films, especially "Roman Holiday", "Gladiator", "La Dolce Vita", "Eat Pray Love", "The Talented Mister Ripley", "Three Coins in the Fountain", "Angels and Demons", and "Ben-Hur".
SIENA and SAN GIMIGANNO. Peaceful and silent, achingly beautiful vistas of vineyards and mountains, dotted with stone farmhouses dating back centuries. Medieval towns each with their Duomos and squares (in Sienna, the square is round!) Hospitality unmatched anywhere, giving Italy its reputation for great wine and food. We did a good deal of shopping in the small shops within the walled towns.
"The English Patient","Under the Tuscan Sun", and "Tea With Mussolini" had scenes filmed in these Tuscan locations.
VOLTERRA AND PISA. Volterra's history is read in the 600 funerary urns depicting Etruscan customs and beliefs. The walled city also contains a first-century-BC Amphitheater that has been well-preserved. Pisa, of course, is home to the famous Leaning Tower--actually considered a minor structure in its day, but now is the most recognizable building in Italy. It is surrounded by other buildings more significant for their art and history, many containing the original frescoes, some having been destroyed during WWII.
Althought the "New Moon" movie takes place in Volterra, it will be filmed in another medieval town called Montepulciano.
THE CINQUE TERRE. Or, the "five lands", the Italian Riviera coastal towns of Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore, and la Spezia. From our window in Lerici, the view of the harbor was as colorful and romantic as you could wish it to be. We took a boat trip along the coast, where we had an interesting encounter, and walked in some light rain along the cliffs of the "Lover's Walk".
I haven't uncovered any movies that have been filmed here; the cliffs and rocky terrain, and occasional landslides, would make it precarious going for a film crew.
FLORENCE. More crowded than I expected at first, Florence grew on me for the three days we were there. Once Mark and I were on our own, walking toward Syracuse University and cabbing it to Piazza Michelangelo for spectacular skyline views, the magic took hold.
The city tourism bureau ought to pay the makers of "A Room With A View" a generous fee for so charmingly promoting this Florence, a city I want to visit again some day.
Coming up: Our Group of Six (plus One); The People We met; A day-to-day diary.