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Red trousers and Segways - Midlands Movies Italian Trip

By midlandsmovies, Apr 25 2013 08:47PM

After a tough end to 2012 I decided that I would visit a country that had been on my “to-do” list for many a long year and go and visit the glorious cities of Italy. A big fan of their food, art and fashion, I arranged to meet my friend Dave (who was ski instructing in Turin) and that we would visit three cities in 5 days in the northern part of the country. Leaving on an afternoon flight on Thursday April 18th I soon landed at Venice Treviso airport, 30km from the city itself, such was the RyanAir small print but I couldn’t complain as the flight cost me just a tenner!

With echoes of the Cornetto advert in my mind, the city known for its canals and rivers and made up of over 100 islands and aside from a futuristic bridge linking it to the main bus station, a myriad of bridges and alleyways looked straight from medieval times. Immediately, you understand why Nic Roeg used its labyrinth of streets for his sinister thriller Don’t Look Now (1973). The film focuses on a search for a lost daughter in a red jacket but the only red on show over the two days for us tourists were unsightly waves or red trousers. Hundreds of pairs of them! I would have needed a bigger memory card to take photos of them all but if that’s your fashion thing I could have submitted hundreds to this blog - http://lookatmyfuckingredtrousers.blogspot.co.uk

On the first day (using Google Maps we worked out we walked at least 10km over a 9-hour period) we visited St Mark's Basilica, the Grand Canal and the Piazza San Marco. We also took at boat taxi to the Lido di Venezia which is a long sandbar island which hosts The Venice Film Festival every September. As this was April, all we did was take a paddle in the water!

Other films set in the picturesque city include a sequence from Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade (1989) which is set mainly around the San Barnaba church for the library scene (this YouTube vid shows a comparison between film and location - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WiwVdYTQl2k) but it was now a Da Vinci museum (see my photo below). We chose “poorly” as we had already walked past the church a few times before realising where it was from and went back and was shocked to learn that the film’s boat chase sequence was actually filmed in Tilbury docks in Essex!

Casino Royale (2006) was also set on the Grand Canal (although the building used was a model and the original did not sink into the water as the movie depicts) and as we wandered the shadowy streets which led to sunny squares, I came across a shop that made masquerade masks and had a sign saying they provided hand-made props for Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut (1999) – see pic.

Finally we chatted about Shakespearian films of The Merchant of Venice (and the huge amount of shops on the islands for tourists) as well as Othello – which I suggested could be adapted to O’ Thello’s as the city was lacking an Irish bar that is often a staple for UK travellers. Back at the hotel we funnily caught a glimpse of The Tourist (2010) a Johnny Depp/Angelina Jolie film set in Venice on one of the movie channels on TV. As our two days of walking came to an end, I finally had had enough of “brrriiiddgggggggge” (to adapt a Father Ted joke) and after enjoying the drinks, food and amazing views from the Campanile (bell tower), we packed up and headed to Florence by train.

Two hours later and we check into the amazing Florence hotel Residence la Contessina just north of the city centre and 5 minutes from the station. After a quick rest, we headed out into the night to get our first taste of this spectacular Renaissance city. After comparing the physical task of walking around Venice to the 80s UK game-show The Crystal Maze, Dave suggests we head straight for the Duomo with a cry of “To the crystal Duomo!!”

The Duomo is technically the Dome of Florence Cathedral, a striking white and green wooden structure that dominates the skyline of the area. Inside is equally remarkable with the 45 metre (147 ft) wide dome covered by an enormous fresco that consists of 38 750 ft² of painted surface and took 10 years to complete.

Movie wise, my main connection is with the Ridley Scott film Hannibal (2001) where Anthony Hopkins’ cannibal doctor is hiding out amongst the Palazzo Vechio as a local disgraced police officer (Giancarlo Giannini as Chief Inspector Rinaldo Pazzi) tries to trap him. Pazzi tries to confirm Lecter’s identity by getting a local pickpocket to capture his fingerprints on a bracelet but is killed by a knowing Lecter. As the pickpocket dies in the market area, Pazzi washes his hands in the Fontana del Porcellino (rough translation: pig fountain). Legend has it that if you rub his nose whilst putting a coin in the pig’s mouth then it will bring you good luck. I gave it a go but not sure it worked! (See photo).

We continued throughout the city and crossed the Ponte Vecchio (old bridge) over the river Arno before going up another Campanile again (this bell tower had over 400 stone steps instead of the Venice tower’s lift) and followed this with a trip to see an icon of Florence, Michelangelo’s David. Perseus with Medusa’s head in the Loggia dei Lanza was straight out of 1981 & 2010’s Clash of the Titans and we saw plenty of Renaissance paintings, artwork and designer fashion like Gucci, Armani and Vitton too.

Also in Florence is the British Institute http://www.britishinstitute.it who show films with each season taking a specific theme or personality from the world of cinema and famous films from the city include Light in the Piazza, Calmi Cuori Appassionati, A Room with a View, Tea with Mussolini and Virgin Territory. Roberto Benigni also hails from Florence.

After seeing numerous museums and art galleries, such as the Uffizi Gallery and the Pitti Palace, we had read that “No visitor in their right mind would consider driving a car in the city” (Inside Out’s guide book to Florence) so Dave and I decided on our second day to cover more of the city by hiring a Segway for a few hours. The two-wheeled, self-balancing, battery-powered electric vehicle is actually banned on public roads in the UK so thought this the perfect opportunity to have a go! After a quick (30 second) lesson and after asking if there are any rules (“don’t go on motorways”) we felt fully prepared to zoom around the sights. A brilliant two hours later (and one minor spill on a hill) our leg muscles ache and Dave’s skiing skills and balance were far greater than my own but we were so glad we gave it a try. Pulling up at the lights behind much larger road-going vehicles, we even invent our own film called Sicilian Segway Cops! It wasn’t long though before we needed to pack up again and get the train to our final destination of Pisa.

After the hugely touristic and beautiful cities we had been through in the previous days, Pisa was a bit of a disappointment as other than the infamous Leaning Tower (technically our third bell tower of the trip!), there was not a great deal to see but maybe we had been spoilt in Venice and Florence.

Film wise, I came across a classic Odeon cinema and my mind kept wandering to Superman 3 where “evil” Supes straightens the tower much to the annoyance of a local market trader trying to sell authentic models before coming back to lean it once more. Check this video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iMOnOjASyKk

As the day came to a close, me and Dave had to split again, him back to Turin for a final week’s skiing and me back to East Midlands airport as one very satisfied visitor, full to the brim with pizza, vino, ravioli, calzones and more. Thus ended a great trip to a beautiful set of cities captured by a range of film-makers seeking to document the history, stories, art and attractive architecture of these historically charming towns.

Midlands Movies Mike


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