Piazza Santissima Annunziata is Florence's answer to Venice's Piazza San Marco - the location that all films
set in the city seem to have to feature. Even less predictable is San Minato's status as Florence's answer to the ubiquitous Salute.
The establishing view from up there helps, no doubt. And then there's that picturesque tunnel-like street.
(Plot summaries without any detailed observations or criticism mean that I haven't actually watched the thing myself.)


The Agony and the Ecstasy 1965 Carol Reed

Amo te sola I Love You Only (1936)
Vittorio De Sica, later the director of Bicycle Thieves, stars as John, a young Neapolitan composer in revolutionary Florence. He falls in love but is forced to flee to Milan, and success at La Scala. His memories mean he must return to Tuscany, though, to find his girl and finally march off to war singing a hymn he composed himself.

Ad Ovest di Paperino 1982
Descriptions and reviews make this sound like a surreal version of Amici miei below - odd people playing tricks on passers by while one of their number seeks her prince who will, she says, come disguised as a pigeon.

Amici miei 1975
For Brits I can best sum this up as Last of the Summer Wine set in Florence. For the rest of you I'll need to say it's all about a bunch of unyoung male buddies behaving like children. Mostly this involves playing practical jokes on people. There's more sex and swearing here than in L of the SW and the women are younger and sexier but the concept is the same, only without the laughs, for me anyway. This film has a certain reputation but I found it unfunny, dated and unmoving. Philipp Noiret is in it, as is Adolfo Celi in an uncharacteristicly unvillainous part, at least if you only know him as a Bond villain and maybe in Who saw her die? over on the Venice films page. Marcello Mastroianni was to star, but thought better of it. The flashes of Florence are few but very real and very wintery. There's some action in Piazza SS Annunziata and a funeral leaves Santo Spirito (both scenes captured right). This was never released in the UK and it's evidently only available on DVD in Brazil and Greece. There are two sequels, providing more of the same.

L'arcidiavolo The Devil in Love 1966
It's 1478 and Pope Innocent VIII and Lorenzo de 'Medici decide tp patch up their differences with the marriage of Maddalena, daughter of Lorenzo and Franceschetto Cybo, the Pope's son. To prevent this plan the devil sends his emissary Belfagor (Vittorio Gassman) to kill Franceschetto. Things go pear-shaped when the arcidiavolo falls in love with Maddalena. Mickey Rooney's in it too.

Bonus Malus 1993
The unhappy life of an insurance inspector.

Cari Fottutissimi Amici 1994
It's August 1944 and following the liberation of Florence Dieci, a former boxing manager, puts together a team of hungry young men to fight for food around the countryside. Along the way they pick up an African- American deserter, a female fascist and a dog. Life lessons follow.

Caruso Pascoski di Padre Polacco 1988
The character of the titular Caruso is played by Francesco Nuti and this is reportedly his best film, whoever he might be. He plays a psychiatrist whose marriage is sex-comedy material.

Il Ciclone The Cyclone 1996
Five flamenco dancers get lost in the Tuscan countryside and get taken in by a family, bringing a breath of fresh air to their lives and many plot developments typical of romantic comedies.

La Congiuntura 1964
Vittorio Gassman plays a Roman prince who takes Jane (Joan Collins) on a trip to Switzerland. He expects sex but is getting used and involved in her smuggling of stolen money. Florence is heavily featured, it is said. Also features Hilda Barry, a Brit actress who went on to appear on TV in Hancock, Dixon of Dock Green, Z Cars, Armchair Theatre, Father Dear Father, The Charlie Drake Show, The Prisoner, The Forsyte Saga, Adam Adamant Lives, Quatermass and the Pit and the film Poor Cow. Blimey!

Così come sei Stay as You Are 1978
Marcello Mastroianni (who is also in the following two Pratolini Cronaci) is here much older, and playing an architect deciding whether sex with Nastasha Kinski is a good idea, what with her maybe being his daughter. A plot summary on the IMDB calls it a May-September romance - you may call it something less forgiving. It's also a creepily similar plot to Obsession below.

Cronaca Familiare
Well that was a bit of a shock - after getting used to films of Pratolini novels being square and black and white this one's all widescreen and colour. It's based on what's said to be the most autobiographical of Vasco Pratolini's novels, was directed by Valerio Zurlini, like Le Ragazze di San Frediano and it stars Marcello Mastroianni, like Cronache di Poveri Amanti
MM is the older brother, presumably Pratolini himself, who loses his younger brother to a better-off family when their mother dies. They are reunited later and their fractured relationship between the wars, before illness strikes, is the meat of the film. The actor who plays the doomed younger brother, Jacques Perrin, went on to have a long and busy career, including many films with Costa-Gavras and Jaques Demy and Cinema Paradiso. Not much Florence location filming, but the city gets talked about a lot, which itself reflects the film's being more a thing of dialogue than action. It's somewhat undramatic progression presumably reflects it being a true story. More arty and slow than the other films mentioned, but still affecting and cinematically superior. You can get a DVD from moviedetective.net.

Cronache di Poveri Amanti 1954
A film based on a novel by Pratolini (translated into English as A Tale of Poor Lovers) this one also has Marcello Mastroianni in it (see Cronaca Familiare above). Originally set to be directed by Luchino Visconti, but he couldn't get the financing. The plot concerns love's torments and the fight against fascism in 1925 in a close-knit street in the centre of Florence. (You can click on the link above to my review of the book for more plot details). The street itself looks very generic and not very Florence-y and is almost certainly a set. But there's plenty of location shooting too, around the Palazzo Vecchio, by the big churches, and into the more anonymous (and repetitive) suburbs. (Florence seems to have had a lot of industrial chimneys back then.) It's a subtle, well-filmed, altogether well-made and engrossing film, the performances good and the actors good-looking.  You can get a DVD from moviedetective.net,

Two screen caps from Amici miei

from Cosi come sei
A pre-pedestrianisation scene -  the edge of the Baptistery is left foreground
 and the Bigallo just beyond.

Two from Cronache di Poveri Amanti


Da Vinci's Demons

Series 1
Episode 1 - The Hanged Man
Being a high profile US-made series one wouldn't expect this to be old-fashioned and historically accurate and full of the truths of Leonardo's life. But even making these allowances this takes breathtaking liberties, is utterly of it's time, and emulates recent TV successes shamelessly. Leonardo is a lustful lad - all leather-clad pseudo-cockney swagger and man-cleavage, the plot revolves around mysterious knowledge from the East, contained in the so-called Book of Leaves, leading to lots of mystical tosh getting talked in jump-cut drug-induced scenes in candle-lit ruins, and the Pope and his brutal henchmen will stop at nothing to protect their secret library and prevent this dangerous knowledge leaking out. Add some family trouble and torture, neatly and economically achieved by having Leonardo's father help give his son a lengthy warning beating, and all the zeitgeisty buttons are being pushed. Hard. Oh and there's also lots of sex and bosoms and bottoms, and even a couple of willies. But there's no denying the attraction of the shiny toys and post-Game of Thrones production design, and there are sundry bits of nice business for us more clued-up types. Leonardo designs a mechanical Colombina to fly from the Duomo into the fireworks on Easter Sunday not on a wire but flying free and stuntfully. And the façade of the Duomo is unfinished and taking on its earlier appearance (see below right) as it was in Leonardo's time. But to return to the downside: people do call him Da Vinci, he's not gay, he needs his opium, and he doesn't remember his mother, who may have been a slave from the East. (Although he is said to have had mother issues due to his having not known her beyond the first five years of his life.) Also the Medici keep getting referred to as the Medicis. So, a combination of cringe-making fashionable clichés and inauthenticity with smart bits of business and a glowing computer-generated period Florence. Well, I'm hooked.

Episode 2 - The Serpent
Less flashy and less spectacular, faked-Florence-wise, but providing some flavoursome plot-thickening. An attention holder rather than grabber methinks. In recent promotional interviews Tom Riley, the actor who plays Leonardo, has promised that episodes 3 and 4 will deal with our hero's sexuality and the fact of its not being  just hetero. We'll see how this is played.

Episode 3 - The Prisoner

Saw more searching for the spy in the Medici midst and further despicable papal plotting, with a mysterious and gory outbreak of something nasty in a convent creating zombie attack nuns. I exaggerate only slightly. There was also a scene set in a version of the Medici Palace's Chapel of the Magi, but with imitations of the Gozzoli frescoes featuring the faces of the series' characters. Also a scene-setting piece of CGI (see below right) featuring a view of Florence looking like it would've looked in the 15th century, removing the later sprawl and putting the wall and its towers back. But they left the Library (left of centre, with sunlit towers) which opened in 1935.

Episode 4 - The Magician

Contained little CGI trickery and faked Florence fun but much more gore and brutality. Riario and Rome messily murder almost all of the Medici alum miners and then threaten to lay siege to Florence, so it falls to Leonardo to protect the city by means of superior technology or wily stratagems. The promised investigation of our hero's non-straight sexuality turns out to amount to merely the well-documented accusation of sodomy which sees him arrested at the end of this episode. Such anonymous accusations being a not-uncommon way of settling scores in Florence at this time. He had previously reacquainted himself with Lorenzo's mistress's intimate parts and got his mental knickers all twisted about the Medici connection to the mystical Sons of Mithras/Book of Leaves business, which looks set to lead us to a new continent not entirely unlike America. Slip-ups this week included the accusations against Leonardo being formally and loudly proclaimed as grievious and the name of the architect of the Duomo being pronounced to rhyme with fleshy rather than pesky.

Episode 5 – The Tower
Leonardo spends most of this episode in prison, facing the accusation of sodomy, which incarceration makes his Hoxton quiff go even quiffier. Many courtroom scenes, too, and scenes in the oddly gothic Medici Palace, as Lorenzo tries to win the account of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain for the family bank. The matter of Leonardo's gayness is not exactly fearlessly confronted, but neither is it cravenly sidestepped - he snogs a man, but in the next scene is sexily bathing with the gorgeous Lucrezia Donati, Lorenzo's mistress. His genius this week makes for bomb-bearing bats (the bombs being made from bat crap) and the invention of photography (and the Batman bat signal) in the service of the exposure of an enemy's indulgence in bestiality. I can't find either of these in the reference books. The tone of this series remains uncertain, but it's still enjoyable bunk.

Episode 6 - The Devil
This episode has some scene-setting mystical bollocks to begin with, followed by plenty of penises, including the Pope's, and then Leonardo and chums are off to visit Dracula. Paul Rhys puts in a fine and bonkers performance as said Vlad, with a wacky accent variously combining Transylvania and Wales. Another one low on CGI Florence but with much gore and brutality. Still enjoyable and dark bunk, with some landscapes a little suggestive of the backgrounds of some of Leonardo's paintings, don't you know, particularly the Virgin of the Rocks. Two more episodes to go.

Episode 7 - The Hierophant
This episode begins with Leonardo and his gang spying on Riario in a very un-Italian-looking (Welsh?) graveyard. Our hero needs to get into the Vatican to find the other half of his magic key, you see, and somewhat spectacular and very plot-progressing it all turns out. In Florence the discovery of the identity of the Papal spy progresses, as does the Pazzi Conspiracy, which looks like making the series finale, although it makes some very inauthentic progress at the end of this episode, which needs to do too much story-progression to allow for much CGI jiggery-pokery, or location fun. The Pazzi Conspiracy is hatched around a large table, Mafia style, of course, as all conspiracies have to be. This being an American series, the main plot strands are driven by love for a  father and the need to find a mother, but, sneaking just beyond the predictable, a brace of surprises do keep us gripped for...

Episode 8 - The Lovers
The series finale begins with some more mystical stuff inside another ruined gothic abbey full of candles, with Leonardo presented as The Chosen One, just like Buffy, and seemingly at last getting a bit fed up himself with all the rubbish the foreign bloke in the eye-makeup spouts. But he remains convinced, as we gallop to a breathless conclusion, which ends on a cliff-hanger. The Pazzi Conspiracy propels the episode as strands join and twist and the outcome is roughly historically true, but the Pazzi poisoning the Medici's Eucharistic wafers is a wild invention. The outcome is brought about by blades, which does ring true, but in this case it's an OTT swashbuckling finale where Leonardo saves the day, and Lorenzo.  The façade of the Duomo is still not finished, for the episode's big finish, so we get some more CGI Florence prettiness. Oh, and Lucrezia Donati's dad turns out to not be Gandalf after all. And the promises that the series will not shy away from showing Leonardo's gayness have proven pretty hollow.
It seems that the process by which a gay character is made out to be, against all accepted wisdom, a macho womanising stud is called straight-washing.




Series 2
Episode 1 - The Blood of Man
The end of Series 1 of DVD left much blood still dripping and being let. In the aftermath of the Pazzi attack Leonardo escapes through the sewers with Lorenzo and saves him by inventing blood transfusions. Lots of action, lots of mystical mumbo-jumbo, flashbacks, flashforwards, dream sequences, throat-cuttings and much use of the f word. Pretty much the old recipe, then, but directed by Charles Sturridge (of Brideshead Revisited TV series fame) and all breathlessly exciting stuff.

Episode 2 - The Blood of Brothers
This episode has less expensive action sequences and CGI vistas and a bit more plot. Lorenzo wins back the love of Florence, with the help of Leonardo and some copper sound-reflecting dishes, so that Lorenzo can rouse the rabble from the CGI campanile of the church of San Lorenzo. The real campanile, built 300 years later, looks very different. Following a good deal of score-settling Leonardo is set to take a ship to follow Riaro (who has taken his map and his mate) and go look for the Book of Leaves, the ancient wisdom which it contains being guaranteed to answer all questions and solve everyone's problems. So, who's he going to call on for help? Amerigo Vespucci of course.

This is where the story splits and the plots get even more campy and sanity-stretching
: Leonardo heads for South America for some Inca action, Lorenzo gets mixed up in Italian political shenanigans and imprisonment and I decide that life is too short.


Dante Nella Vita e Nei Tempi Suoi
A racy-looking film of Dante's life after the death of Beatrice, involving Guelphs, Ghibellines, political shenanigans, nun kidnapping, and the poet's son finding the last pages of the Paradiso in Ravenna.

Escapade in Florence 1962
Two episodes of an American TV series Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color later edited into one film. It stars Tommy Kirk and Annette Funicello as a pair of teenagers in Florence who get caught up in a plot involving art forgery. Long out of print, and only ever released on VHS, but all filmed on location, it seems.

Eutanasia di Un Amore 1978
Based on a novel with the same name by George Saviane, this is the story of the rocky relationship of a professor with his former student, played by Ornella Muti. Reportedly a film full of walking and talking.
  Die Flucht in die Nacht (1926)
A German film based on a Pirandello story, starring Conrad Weidt, known to English-speaking audiences as Major Strasser in Casablanca, he also starred in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Here he plays Henry IV of Germany who falls from his horse and loses his memory. For many years this was thought, wrongly, to be the first film shot in Florence.

Forbidden Music Musica proibita 1942
Tito Gobbi stars as an ageing and lonely opera singer remembering his student days in Florence and the bumpy road of his long-ago love. Not a film I feel drawn to watch all through, not being an opera buff and th
e tone seeming somewhat fluffy on a quick scan through for location interest. All I could find beyond studio filming was a brief walk-and-talk in a garden overlooking the distant Duomo, etc.

From Scratch 2022
Looking pretty much your standard fish-in-pretty-new-water romance, starring the ubiquitous Zoë Saldana, this is a Netflix series. I did a quick scan through the first episode. It included the wide-eyed arrival, being met by the smoking Italian in the miniskirt in the red Fiat, falling for a handsome chef, bringing over the parents, who disapprove a lot, and having big snogs in the rain pre-sex. Lots of pretty Florence filming though, at least in the first episode. Later they return to Los Angeles.
The Girls of San Frediano
Le Ragazze di San Frediano
A film based on another novel by Pratolini and also directed by Valerio Zurlini, like Cronaca Familiare above. It concerns Bob, a handsome mechanic who juggles the affections of six women, making promises he can't keep to all of them. He's called Bob not to make us smirk and think of Rowan Atkinson, but because of Robert Taylor, who all the boys were trying to be at this time, it seems. This is broadly a comedy, with some teeth, but not many, and they're not that sharp. It may be the passing of time, or the Italian sensibility, but Bob doesn't ever get the (metaphorical or real) kick in the testicles that he so richly deserves, and which he does get, it seems, in the novel. Looked at with allowances for its age, though,  it's an enjoyable slice of fifties Florence. Not much location filming, but what there is is authentically non-tourist. A panoramic sweep at the end gives us the North end of the Ponte Vecchio still a bomb site and some temporary bridges (see below) built after the Nazis blew up the old ones. The story was also made into a TV series in 2007.




Three from The Girls of San Frediano


Giuliano de' Medici The Conspiracy of the Crazy 1941
A film about the Pazzi Conspiracy, which was its original title, but Mussolini saw it and feared that it might incite rebellion. He had it withdrawn from distribution, purged of political references, and given the title Giuliano de 'Medici. Although some reports claim that the name change was from The Conspiracy of the Crazy to The Pazzi Conspiracy.


To concentrate on the presence of Florence in this film in the light of all the other famous factors may seem a little odd, but I probably wouldn't have bought the DVD of this, what with the mixed reviews and all,  if it wasn't for the Florence factor, and that's what this page is all about, after all. And Florence does look handsome, it must be said, as does Julianne Moore. She's a mighty fine actress, but played some pretty unlovable characters around this time, in the likes of The Hudsucker Proxy and Cookie's Fortune. She's not at all unlovable in this one. What is unlovable is the book's famous nasty ending, which is not so nasty as filmed here,  just laughable. The rest of it chugs along quite nicely in a way which keeps you quite gripped but leaves no lasting impression. Effective, with good locations - the library where Hannibal works is, in fact, the famous Foundling Hospital - but this is far from a great film.

Hannibal TV series (2013– )
The TV series derived from the film, made by Bryan Fuller, a man closely linked with series we've liked, like Heroes, Wonderfalls and Pushing Daisies. But it was only with 2015's Series 3 moving the action to Florence that I was tempted by Hannibal, and the fact that Gillian Anderson and Eddie Izzard are in it. Anderson plays a psychiatrist and Izzard a willing victim getting gradually relieved of his limbs and served them at the dining table, in black and white, and so presumably flashback - jumping in after two seasons can be confusing. It's all very stylised, but not half as stylish as it thinks it is. Similarly it's self-conscious cleverness comes across as show-offy clever-cleverness rather than authentic wit. It's all murk and threat and slow-motion drops of blood and water, gratuitous dream sequences and disturbing discordant music. The concentration on Dante scholarship is very Dan Brown too, and the whole eating people thing is just so...unvegetarian. Not for me.

The Killer is Still Among Us (L'assassino è ancora tra noi) 1986
A giallo that's reported to be nasty even by the standards of the genre. It's another telling of the Monster of Florence story, but this time with a young female criminology student on the trail of the serial murderer and mutilator. Sounds pretty gruesome, and not in a good way.

I Laureati (The Graduates) 1995
Four young men fritter their lives away in Florence. The first film directed  by Leonardo Pieraccioni. No, me neither.

Inferno 2016
I think that it goes without saying that this film is easier to watch than Dan Brown's original book is to read, but is hardly an award winner. The beginning is all disturbing jump-cuts, discordant noises and gory hallucinations, but things soon settle into the usual blizzard of puzzles, double-crosses, frowny bits and impending global apocalypse. Plenty of Florence locations, including a dash to and through the Boboli Gardens because 'the Palazzo Vecchio is near the Boboli Gardens' - well it is if you know the secret entrance into the Vasari Corridor in the Boboli, and it's not locked. There's a brief visit to Venice too, before the big finale in Istanbul. Aside from Tom Hanks as our hero this stars Felicity Jones (from the new Star Wars film Rogue One) as his sidekick and Sidse Babett Knudsen (who impressed in the recent first Westworld season and who was in Borgen) as his old flame from the World Health Organisation. An efficient job of storytelling, then, and not a little scary and violent. The plot twist at the end of the book doesn't make it onto the screen, though.

Leo da Vinci: Mission Mona Lisa 2018
Young Leo is a 'tween boy inventor of complex wooden contraptions who, when his friend Lisa is in need, goes to Florence to make a fortune and ends up mixed up with pirates. The characters in this one have that look that's identical to all computer-animated young humans post-Frozen, and it seems to have nothing unusual or special about it. Some younger children join the band, there's a villain with a pigeon with an eye-patch, Florence looks like it's built of plastic play bricks and, well, I'll admit to only sampling, and not having the stomach for watching it all.

Light in the Piazza 1962
The film of the novella by Elisabeth Spencer, which tells of an American woman visiting Florence with her daughter who is twenty-six but, following a childhood accident, is much younger mentally. A touching and real relationship develops between the daughter and a charming local, much to the mother's delight and disquiet. Olivia de Havilland plays the mother, Yvette Mimieux the girl, and George Hamilton the  suitor. The father of the local suitor is played by Rossano Brazzi, of course, who can always be relied upon to be grey-templed and suave whilst talking seductively of love. The director was Guy Green, the famed cinematographer who won an Academy Award for his memorable work on the David Lean Great Expectations. The film doesn't shy away from the central theme of the daughter's mental disability and in fact by visualising it - with girlish skipping and giggling and cuddly toys - it all becomes more evident. An odd and original story makes for a somewhat odd and impressive film, with some sound acting and sharp dialogue. The Florentine locations are varied and keep pretty much to those named in the book. Streets around San Frediano and Santa Maria del Carmine are unusually well used. But oddly the Piazza della Signoria, the scene of the symbolic cannon incident mentioned in the title, becomes a park.
Light in the Piazza, the book and film, have also now been made into a musical.

Lorenzino de' Medici The Magnificent Rogue 1935
It's the early 16th Century and Duke Alessandro de' Medici is lording it over Florence. His cousin Lorenzino is in love with Bianca Strozzi but suspects a kidnapping plot and plans to assassinate the duke. Lorenzino later has to flee to Venice, pursued by Cosimo de 'Medici's assassins. This one did get a US release, but I've never seen it. Bronzino and Benvenuto Cellini appear in it too.

The Marshal 1993
This one-off was on UK television many years back, with Alfred Molina making a fine stab at Ms Nabb's Marshal, with Gemma Craven as his wife, and Jude Law was in it too. Filmed on the Marshal's fictional patch around the Oltrano district, it is said that the author hated it and blocked any repeat showings. I watched it and enjoyed it back then but foolishly failed to keep my old VHS recording.

Medici: Masters of Florence 2016
This is an Italian-made TV series, available on Netflix. It's got lots of Italians in it, along with some faces from Game of Thrones and Dustin Hoffman. I'll give it a watch and report soon. Meantime the screen grab (below right) shows the Duomo awaiting its dome, with the walls of Florence behind, towers spaced along them, enclosing lots of fields still. Authentic!

Metello 1970
If I tell you that this one is largely concerned with labour struggles and a long-running a strike in the early 20th Century you probably won't need telling that it's based on a novel by Vasco Pratolini. It won the David di Donatello for Best Picture in 1970 and Ottavia Piccolo got the award for Best Actress at Cannes.

The Monster of Florence 1986
An Italian filming of the story of the famous (and somewhat over-exposed) serial killer, this one does not come any higher than politely recommended, and then only in comparison to the same year's The Killer Is Still Among Us mentioned above. There's been talk of a Hollywood version of journalists Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi's investigations for a while, with George Clooney being reported to have signed up to play Preston in 2011, but there has no news since then. Maybe the serial killer thing has run its course.

Il Mostro di Firenze The Monster of Florence 2009
An Italian TV Mini-Series of 6 episodes. It has one of those trendy and jittery hand-held intro sequences that Homeland has pretty much nailed. I got hold of a copy of episode 1 with no subtitles and scanned through for location interest. It looks as if the glamorous female investigating detective is having to cope with the macho preconceptions of her colleagues and there seems to be that fashionable focus on the lives of victims and their families. Some street scenes look very Italian, if not very Florentine, and there's some blurry Duomo views through office windows. Also flashes of random Florentine building and statuary details to suggest that the following scenes are in local interiors, I suppose, although they usually just precede another visit to the mortuary.

Hannibal the TV series

 from Inferno

from Leo da Vinci: Mission Mona Lisa

Three from Light in the Piazza

from Medici: Masters of Florence

Natale al Campo 119 1947
Spending Christmas in the United States as prisoners of war in camp 119 Italian inmates reminisce about their home towns. A soldier from Florence tells his story of love during wartime and Venetian tells a tale of a lovelorn gondolier.

The director is Brian De Palma and the lead actor is Cliff Robertson, and I'll admit that I'm no fan of either of them. Here De Palma makes a very poor fist of making an Alfred Hitchcock film and Robertson is no Cary Grant. Stoney-faced Cliff plays a man whose wife and daughter are killed in a botched kidnap payoff. He builds a tomb looking like the church of San Miniato in Florence, where he first met his wife, and after a decade and a half of obsessive mourning he revisits the city and the church and finds there a young woman who is the dead spit of, you guessed it, his wife, played by Genevieve Bujold. I'm betting that, bearing in mind the long gap of years, you've guessed who she is, but Robertson doesn't, and we're not supposed to. It's all credulity-stretching tosh. The photography has its moments (thanks to Vilmos Zsigmond), Florence is a handsome backdrop for about half an hour, Bernard Herrmann makes stormy music like he did for Hitchcock, and Ms Bujold can act. But as a Vertigo-influenced piece of filmic art it's laughable. It's also shot through Vaseline-smeared lenses, for some reason. As far as location-spotting goes...upon entering San Miniato our hero is miraculously transported to another church. In the documentary amongst the extras on the Dutch DVD De Palma tells us that the Vatican would not allow filming there after a previous film crew given permission had made a porn film. So he was forced to film the interior in a church in what sounds like 'San Gemignato', which I presume means San Gimignano. The Piazza SS Annunziata makes a brief appearance, of course, and Ms Bujold's house doorway is in a picturesque buttressed-over street that I didn't know in Florence but found on a subsequent trip.
This film is now available on Blu-Ray from Arrow Films.

Paisa 1946
A grimly realistic portmanteau war film directed by Roberto Rossellini, with episode four a tale of the resistance in occupied Florence adapted from a Pratolini story. The six episodes progress with the allies progress up from Sicily into northern Italy.

The Plague in Florence
Die Pest in Florenz 1919
Written by Fritz Lang and directed by Otto Rippert, adapted from 'The Masque of the Red Death' by Edgar Allan Poe story. The IMDB says that it was only ever released in Finland. Tantalising, especially for this keen Lang fan. The plot sees Julia, a wealthy courtesan, arrive in Florence and a cardinal fearing that her allure could tempt people away from the church, so he orders inquiries into the strength of her faith. Lorenzo, son of Cesare, the city's ruler, leads a mob to storm the palace where Julia is about to be tortured. To rescue her Lorenzo kills his father, sensual excess infests the city and Medardus, a Savonarola-like hermit, falls prey to Julia's beauty and is driven to sacrilegious acts. Things go from bad to worse, debauchery wise, until a ragged female personifying the Plague infects the city and plays her violin as the corpses mount up.

Pontormo 2004
An episode in the (later) life of the famed mannerist painter, here played by Joe Mantegna, aka Fat Tony in The Simpsons. It was only ever released in Italy, it seems, and then shown on TV in Hungary a few years later.

Porta Un Bacione a Firenze 1956
The title translates as Bring a Big Kiss to Florence.
Simonetta, the daughter of a Florentine living  in New York, takes herself to Florence to convalesce from an eye infection. She stays with the Count Pineschi, an old friend of her father, and a love triangle ensues involving a sculptor and a policeman's daughter. The title is that of a famous song sung by Odoardo Spadaro, known as the Italian Maurice Chevalier, who makes a brief appearance in the film.

The Portrait of a Lady 1996
Nicole Kidman plays another of Henry James's American women of means bouncing around Europe and turning down offers of marriage, until she meets the wrong man, played by John Malkovich. It's all very intense and modern, and the scenes in Florence amount to two brief views - a carriage passes the Duomo and someone walks through the Piazza SS Annunziata carpeted in cabbage leaves.

Ricomincio da tre (I'm Starting from Three) 1981
A young Neapolitan called Gaetano decides to leave home and goes to stay with his aunt in Florence. Written by, directed by and starring Massimo Troisi.


Two from Obsession

Two from Paisa

From The Portrait of a Lady 



Romola 1924
Lilian and Dorothy Gish, along with William Powell and Ronald Colman, starred in this silent adaptation of the George Eliot novel. Filmed in Florence and on locally-built sets, this is reputedly slow and a bit of a stinker, redeemed only by its photography. Not available on DVD yet, officially or illicitly, but you can watch a rare, dark and strange clip on YouTube below.


Two from A Room with a View (1985).

from September Affair

from 6 Underground

from Tea with Mussolini


A Room with a View 1985
You might say that this was the only must-see film set in Florence, and I'd be hard pushed to disagree, with the arguable exception of Obsession. A fresh young Helena Bonham-Carter gets accosted inside Santa Croce, traumatised in the Piazza della Signoria, and then has her blood-stained postcards chucked into the Arno by the Englishman. Later there's a quick snog in a field that propels the plot, and she eventually doesn't marry the man we knew she wouldn't. A fine and memorable cast, too, bordering on perfection. And it reminds you of a time when you never saw Simon Callow in a film but that you got to see his chubby bottom also. Mostly pretty faithful to the book, but the Miss Allen's feature more - the cornflower scene is not in the book. An odd thing though: the whole issue of them wanting a south-facing room is made mad by the fact that the room they get actually faces north over the Arno towards the Uffizi (see screen capture left) and HB-C also wakes up with the sun streaming across her bed from a crack in said window. Picky, moi?

A Room with a View 2007
A UK ITV adaptation by Andrew Davies. It has less of the glow and swoon of the Merchant/Ivory film above, and a less-good cast, but feels more authentic and has a bit more wit and edge. Miss Lavish is much less pompous, the Emersons are much more Cockney, and the odd bits of gay subtext are a bit more overt. Generally the sort of differences you'd expect between a smart 00s TV adaptation with something to prove and a well-loved romantic 80s nostalgia-fest. Florence looks fine, but without the warm-up filters of the film. And jarring liberties are taken with the ending, I warn you, which seemed pretty pointless to me.

Souvenir d'Italie It Happened in Rome 1957
The romantic adventures of three young women (from Germany, France and England) cast adrift in Italy when their car expires, taking in the touristic sights of Venice, Pisa, Florence and Rome. Dario Fo is one of the writers and Vittorio de Sica one of the actors. June Laverick, the English actress, went on to become a regular on The Dickie Henderson Show in the 1960s.

September Affair 1950
In which an industrialist and a pianist find love in Florence, following an air crash in which they are both presumed to have died. The pair (played by Joseph Cotten and Joan Fontaine) meet in Rome and have snatched minutes in the ruins of Pompeii, the post-war rubble of Naples and romantic Capri before missing their plane and beginning new lives in Florence. It's all very touristy, except it's in black and white, which rather dulls the spectacle of, say, the Blue Grotto in Capri. There's not a lot of location filming in Florence, but enough. Especially as it contains old cars and trams and a very grubby Duomo (see left). The story is unusual and oddly convincing. Worth a watch.

6 Underground 2019
A Michael Bay film, this was released straight to Netflix. The first 20 minutes is a car chase through Florence that takes headspinning liberties with geographical accuracy with almost every edit, taking in literally all the sights in random order, so much so that several minutes in the middle actually take place in Siena! And an announced shortcut through the Uffizi actually goes through the Strozzi Palace, into the Palazzo Vecchio and out into a courtyard of the Pitti. This route also takes in Michelangelo's David, and does it include a penis joke? Of course it does. The blood, brutality and contempt for life are breathtaking, even for an American blockbuster. TV series of the 70s like The A-Team used to elicit chuckles by always showing victims crawling unharmed from crash wreckage. Here the sight of varieties of violent death and mangled corpses seems essential, even if the need for lots of piles of cardboard boxes to get bashed and strewn remains down the decades. The scene where one of the gang parkours down from the lantern of the Florence Duomo (and upon reaching ground level has the Duomo in Siena behind him, of course) is admittedly impressive. Just don't make me watch any more.

A Spasso nel Tempo 1996
On a trip to Universal Studios in Hollywood two Italian tourists get into a time machine and whisked back to Renaissance Florence and 18th-century Venice amongst other adventures. The episode set in Florence in 1477 is said to feature Lorenzo the Magnificent, football fun, Botticelli and a mock game show featuring  noted humanists Poliziano and Pico della Mirandola. At some point Savonarola gets annoyed at someone using a mobile phone and condemns them to burn at the stake for witchcraft. There was a sequel.

The Stendhal Syndrome
1996 Dario Argento
Stendhal Syndrome was only invented in 1989, by Graziella Margherini, head of psychiatry at Santa Maria Nuova in Florence. It is named after the writer, who came over all unnecessary after a visit to Santa Croce in 1817. The syndrome covers a variety of extreme reactions to an excess of great art. In this film Asia Argento, the director's daughter, plays a policewoman (not entirely convincingly) who is helping hunt down a rapist who has become a murderer since moving his operations from Rome to Florence. In Florence she meets him, goes all doolally in front of paintings, gets attacked by him, and then goes a bit psycho herself. This is all gory nonsense with some psychological content. It's not badly made and not unenjoyable, just a bit bonkers. The Florence setting lasts about twenty minutes at the beginning and gives good locations - the Uffizi, the Ponte Vecchio and the dingy arched-over road that was also used in Obsession, notably, and there are some scenes in Viterbo too. A film that's more essential for Argento completists than Florence fans, I think.

Tea with Mussolini 1999
A gang of English women of a certain age (Joan Plowright, Maggie Smith, Judi Dench...) living in Florence before World War II take under their wings a small boy born to the departed mistress of the feckless employer of one of their number. He gets sent away, and then he comes back, and then he comes to their aid when their faith in the decency of Mussolini proves unfounded and they get shipped off to be interned in San Gimignano. (Oh, the suffering!) Add Cher as a brash rich American who the Brits think is insufferably vulgar but who, of course, helps them all in their hour of need. And Lily Tomlin as a lesbian, for no readily apparent narrative reason. Stir them all up with large dollops of cliché, sentimentality, a strong rose tint and some embarrassing dialogue and you get a film to avoid. Except for the fact that there's lots of Florence, which may make you willing to stomach the rest of the package. There's the obligatory scene filmed in
Piazza SS Annunziata, but also a scene in one of the foundling hospital's cloisters, the Chiostro delle Donne (women's cloister) (see left).
Update August 2011 More than a decade later I rewatched on DVD  in the midst of a reawakening of my Florence fever. Has age and time mellowed my opinion? Well, no - it's just as soapy and cringe-making as I remember, with only Cher and Joan Plowright putting in performances that don't make you want to throw ripe tomatoes at the screen.

From La Viaccia

Two from The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles




La Viaccia (The Lovemakers) 1961
Stars a young Claudia Cardinale and Jean Paul Belmondo. The Italian title is the name of a farm, control of which is central to the plot, as our hero ducks out of his rural responsibilities to become prostitute CC's lover and protector in the big wicked city. Well, Florence. The brothel is behind Santo Spirito, and there film gives good black and white and grimy streets and bridges. Written by Vasco Pratolini from a novel by Mario Pratesi. I've managed to acquire a copy, but it has French subtitles only.

Virgin Territory 2007
Well here's an odd one, but not a good one, directed by David Leland. It stars Hayden Christensen, famous for playing Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars prequels, and not much else. Which makes it clear why he'd consider/need this work. It's less obvious why Tim Roth and Matthew Rhys would be tempted. Anyway, despite the supposed Florentine setting the city locations of choice seem to all be in Siena - outside the Duomo and inside the Palazzo Pubblico. And despite the citing of The Decameron as its inspiration there's only one story. The plot is your standard mishmash of naked pretty nuns, willy jokes and attempts at Monty Python and the Holy Grail humour. You'll spot David Walliams, playing a character called Cart Pusher, amongst the desperate attempts at the latter, and Nigel Planer, briefly. To end on an even more stupid note, one of the reviewers on imdb says that this is set in in 14th century Italy during the time of the Roman Empire.

Vita futurista 1916
Directed and produced by Arnaldo Ginna and written by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, this is the first futurist film and claims have been made that it might be the first avant-garde film in cinema history. It was shot in Florence in 1916 and was released the same year as the publication of the Futurist Cinema Manifesto. The footage was mostly lost in the mid-20th century, but some scenes that remain include a  futurist breakfast at the Loggia in Piazzale Michelangelo and a dance in the Cascine park.

The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles
Florence, May 1908
This is the second part of  The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones, Chapter 3: The Perils of Cupid. In the first half Vienna, November 1908 young Indiana (or Henry as he was known then) falls in love with a young princess, which is all a bit drippy, and creepy as he's only eight years old. He also gets a dinner-table lecture on love and sex by Sigmund Freud which ratchets the creep-o-meter up even more. After this heartbreaking episode the family decamp to Florence, where Henry's mum has a thing with Puccini. The composer would've been around fifty in 1908, but is very vigorous here. It's all a bit self-consciously educational, with much talk of Galileo and physics and wallowing in the opera. But at one stage a character points out that Florence is 'the cradle of art' which is hard to argue with, or indeed understand. The overall tone is best described as middle-brow with lofty pretensions. Florence looks very pretty, though, including scenes in the church and graveyard of San Miniato, the Boboli Gardens and a brief glimpse of the old Florence film standby Piazza SS Annunziata. Entertaining enough if you're not expecting very much.



Venice // Florence // London // Berlin