"This is the moment most Italian drivers fear- a Venetian getting into a car."
Finally released from 2006 this is a four part documentary (60 minutes each episode) of a trip from the North to the South of Italy in the company of the charming Francesco da Mosta. It comes in a 2 DVD set in a single case with no extras apart from the subtitles.
Very much an insider's view of the country the journey in a red Alfa Romeo Spider along the roads from Venice to his mother's former home in Palermo is not only a taste of the architecture and art of Italy but an insight into daily life and obsessions. We taste the short intense gulp of breakfast espresso, then overdose on home made pizza, pasta and ice cream. We investigate designer fashion then take part in the Passegiata- the ritual evening walk in our best clothes through the town streets. If you're learning Italian it's perfect as Francesco conducts interviews in his native tongue and occasionally finds it more expressive to slap an Italian turn of phrase mid sentence to camera- it's all subtitled so you don't miss anything.
There are scenes of magnificent palaces with rich decoration and the homes of the poor- the Basso shop/homes of Naples, the tax avoidance scam of the conical Trulli in Puglia, the cave squatters of Sassi. The span of artefacts ranges from Roman mosaics to a collection of unused giant heads of Mussolini languishing in a basement. We move from the sublime heights of Puccini's operas to the writhing dance of the Tarantella.
There's plenty of gory subjects too- frescoes of the last judgment, the dissection museum in Bologna with its wax models, flagellants in Southern Italy drawing blood with points of glass to show their devotion, underground crypts in Naples and Palermo with mummified bodies. We move through misty landscapes in the North, through olive groves, and visit the steaming sulphurous deposits at Solfatara and climb to the summit of Mt Etna.
1. The Romantic North- Padua, Vicenza, Verona, Ferrara, Bologna, Mantua, Milan, Turin, Portofino.
2. A British Love Affair- Urbino, Assisi, Orvieto, Val d'Orca, San Gimignano, Siena, Castello Brolio, Lucca, Florence.
3. The Heart of Italy- Rome (Galleria Borghese, Trevi fountain, EUR), Pontine Marshes, Sabaudia, Tivoli, Gesualdo, Caserta, Campi Plegrei, Solfatara, Naples
4. The Land Of My Mother- Puglia (Trulli houses), Castel del Monte, Ostuni, Matera, Nocera Terinese, Reggio Calabria, Taormina, Etna, Villa del Casale, Noto, Bagheria, Palermo
My only criticism of the release is that it isn't the exact series that was broadcast- it's been reedited and sections have been completely excised. Now I haven't watched this obsessively- only a few times. But I was able to spot a section missing when Francesco takes his son to a football match (no loss for me here) and----much worse my favourite quote of the series has gone. Two bronze classical statues were recovered from the sea and are now to be found in the otherwise dull ferry port of Reggio Calabria. Now- it's entered my psyche- this method of critically assessing statuary- so I don't see why the production company have chosen to deny us...
"It's all I can do to stop myself reaching out and giving him a pat on the behind- always the sign of a good statue, I think." ......
Maybe there's a word for it, as Francesco himself states when explains the siphoning of rebuilding funds in Palermo......no not the Cosy Nostra... "lawyers". Francesco's Venice : Complete BBC Series
also took a long time to be produced. Thankfully the new series Francesco's Mediterranean Voyage
has had an instant release, so maybe it's just a failure to arrange the correct copyright waivers. Still pretty irritating though.