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Talk to the hand: Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh in Much Ado About Nothing. Photo: Samuel Goldwyn Films/Everett Collection
Art & CultureLifestyle

These four blockbuster movies were all set in Tuscany

By Sophie Tanner

Famed for its sweeping landscapes of olive groves and vineyards, art-rich cities and medieval towns, it is no surprise that Tuscany has inspired many of the world’s greatest directors to cast it as a backdrop for some of the most romantic and eye-catching films of our time. Here are some of our favourites:

A Room With A View (1985) Director: James Ivory

When a young Englishwoman, Lucy Honeychurch (Helena Bonham Carter), and her prim chaperone, Charlotte Bartlett (Maggie Smith), arrive in Florence, the capital of Tuscany, in the 1900s, they are given rooms without views. Fellow guests Mr Emerson and his son, George (Julian Sands), graciously offer to switch their rooms with the ladies – allowing them a clear view of the Ponte Vecchio bridge over the River Arno.

Gorgeous cinematography and stirring opera music underscore the unfolding love story of passionate Lucy and free-spirited George. This Oscar-winning film mixes panoramic views and detailed close-ups of Florence’s historic centre, including the scene at Dante’s tomb in the Basilica di Santa Croce, where a Florentine offers to accompany Lucy to view the Giotto frescoes, and the flower-filled hillsides of Fiesole, where Lucy has her first kiss with George. Watch A Room With A View on Amazon.

Much Ado About Nothing (1993) Director: Kenneth Branagh

Branagh chose Villa Vignamaggio as the setting for his outstanding adaptation of Shakespeare’s theatrical comedy, Much Ado About Nothing, in which young lovers Hero (Kate Beckinsale) and Claudio (Robert Sean Leonard), soon to be wed at the home of Leonato (Richard Briers), conspire to trick verbal sparring partners and confirmed singles, Beatrice (Emma Thompson) and Benedick (Kenneth Branagh), into confessing their true love for each other.

The Vignamaggio estate sits on a hill just outside the town of Greve, in the heart of Italy’s most famous wine-making region, Chianti Classico. Most of the story unfolds in the rooms and courtyards of the villa, as well as in the estate’s Renaissance garden and orchards, contributing a sense of timelessness and isolation from the rest of the world. It’s an uplifting movie, especially the final scene, shot with a single camera in one take, in which the villa’s guests sing and dance around the gardens in a joyful celebration. Watch Much Ado About Nothing on Amazon.

The English Patient (1996) Director: Anthony Minghella

In a crumbling villa in Italy during the Second World War, Hana (Juliette Binoche), a nurse, tends to her badly burned, semi-amnesiac patient, Laszlo de Almásy (Ralph Fiennes). His past is shown in flashbacks, revealing his involvement in a fateful love affair.

Minghella’s beguiling Oscar-winning adaptation of Michael Ondaatje’s novel has many scenes that were filmed on location in Tuscany. Some external shots show the hamlet of Ripafratta, panning across its fortress and bridge over the River Serchio, with most footage filmed in the Val d’Orcia, especially the village of Pienza. The Tuscan monastery Sant’ Anna in Camprena is a focal point, where the English patient was employed as a map maker in the 1930s. The 13th-century Bacci Chapel in the Basilica of San Francesco in Arezzo also features in a touching scene when Hana studies the frescoes of Piero della Francesca. Watch The English Patient on Amazon. 

Hannibal (2001) Director: Ridley Scott

Having successfully eluded the authorities for years, Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), the murdering cannibal, lives peacefully in Florence, in a 15th-century building, with frescoes of muses by Ghirlandaio, on the Palazzo Capponi, masquerading as an expert in Florentine art and history.

Trouble strikes when local police commissioner Rinaldo Pazzi (Giancarlo Giannini) begins to suspect Hannibal’s character and is disturbed by Lecter’s fascination with his wife, Allegra – chillingly shown in the opera scene in the cloister of Santa Croce. Learning of a large reward for anyone who assists in Lecter’s capture, Pazzi attempts to kidnap him, but he’s picked the wrong guy. Hannibal’s ensuing trail of murder displays Florence in all its gothic glory, as he commits his most gruesome crimes in Piazza della Signoria and Piazza della Repubblica, staining the Porcellino fountain in Piazza del Mercato Nuovo with his victim’s blood. Watch Hannibal on NowTV.

To Tuscany offers a fantastic range of villas across the region.

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