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"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.

Places visited:
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 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.
88 comments106 of 109 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
Francescos most interesting and enjoyable series shown on BBC1 two years ago has taken quite a while to reach DvD but the wait is well worth it.

Francesco who lives in his glorious Venitian palace has no use of a car so the Ferrari red Alfa Spider he drives was loaned by a friend.

Many will feel let down by his choice of cities in the North but Italy is a country of incredible diversity.The industrial North contrasted by the agricultural almost medieval way of life in southern Italy.

This is a series of great contrast.He visits Milan,a grubby city where Italian chic and designer shops are everywhere.Eve Saint Lerent makes a guest appearence and talks about Milan in general.Italian chic and fashion are taken to extreams in this city where even the Policewomen are immaculately dressed and are allowed to wear highheels.Imagine our policewomen in this country chasing after somebody in highheels?.

Bolognia the oldest university in the world aswell as the resting place of Lucretia Borgia the reformed wife of the powerfull Medici family who eventually became a nun.

Verona and the rather modern balcony that was supposed to have inspired Shakespeares Romeo and Juliet but the Bard never made a visit to this beautifull town.

Sienna that gorgeous city where a visit to the magnificent campo or square where the famous Palio horserace takes place.

Lucca the birthplace and home of the great composer Puccini.One of Francescos friends a opera singer sings one of Puccini magnificent arias in the square.Whether you love opera or not one cannot imagine such a romantic setting without the heart felt passion of Verdi or Puccini, the locals and tourists alike are captivated by the occasion.

This and other aspects of Francescos tour are what make this series so wonderfull.

He also visits some magnificent mansions that are privately owned and never opened to the public.As he is a member of the oldest surviving Venitian family still residing in Venice he has made many important friends along the way.His explanation that these Italian villas gave inspiration to the palaces and great houses of Britain was rather thought provoking and informative.

A visit to Turin and the famous Fiat car factory sees him face to face with the young new wealthy owner of the car giant who came into posession only because several closer relatives died quickly leaving him alongside Silvio Berlesconne the richest Italian in the country.

He finally ends up in the city to end all cities Florence where British actress Maggie Smith another Francesco friend is shown the highlights of the Renaissance splendour.

His influence as a great ambassador for his home country of Italy allowed him to film within possibly the greatest art gallery in the world,Florences Ufizzi gallery where Boticcelis stunning Birth of Venus is discussed aswell as other great works.Really his visit to Florence is so short but what he shows us makes us hunger for more.

The Northern or Top of Italy is totally different to the South and it was a difficult task to show the places of great interest to viewers unfamiliar with its attractions.Im sure there will be complaints by other reviwers that he didnt visit a particular favorite of theirs or include another of the many great cities in the North.

The contrast when he drives further south is quite startling.The country really opens out and becomes barren and almost primitive.The journey is designed so that he can arrive in Sicilly and its capitol Palermo a town still under the control of the Mafia but before he arrives at the southern most part of the country he visits some pretty exciting areas.

His descriptions and analysis of the Italian way of life in the south including a visit to remote towns left in decay due to extream poverty really brought his series to life.Up until Florence we saw the wealth and prosperity of a culture thousands of years in the making,the contrast between Northern and Southern Italy even today is quite startling.

The deep devotion to Catholicism and religion was very much present in the impoverished dwellers of the south.

He walks to the summit of the active Volcano Mt Vesivius and looks right into the crater.He also visits the greatest surviving Roman mosaic in a villa once owned by a distant Empror of that great civilisation.Remarkably he is allowed to walk on the priceless artifact,an artifact nearly 60m in length which recounts daily life throughout the empire aswell as the cruelty and barbaric practices in the amphitheatres throughout his empire.

A lengthy visit to Naples where in my opinion the true Italy is to be found.He visits Italys oldest coffee house where they think the coffee dished out nextdoor is nothing better than soup.

Forget your so called Pizza dished to us in Britain,real Napoly Pizza is something to relish,not a single piece of pineapple insight and freshly baked infront of the waiting customer.

Until fairly recently the underground tunnels dating back centuries were open to the public but now closed.He takes a journey through the past where countless bones are laid to rest,victims of the terribly 15th century plague that spread throughout Italy.

Sicilly the island of the Mafia and still partially in ruins is a frietening place to visit.Francesco tells us that the casual tourist would be very unwise to walk alone in the streets of Palermo.Much of it still lies in ruins having been left that way from the last war,WHY? well the Mafia want it to remain this way so nobody dares to flout their wishes.

This fabulous series comes to a surprise end when Francescos entire family and relatives surprise him in his mothers magnificent and palatial home.His mother is Sicillian ,his father Venitian hence Francescos connection and journey from North to South to discover his families roots and connections throughout Italy.

I have only described the towns and cities he visits on his trully magnificent journey.He also includes magnificent villas and vineyards the home of Ciante where the grand Duke lives in possibly Italys largest home.It is surrounded by the thousands of acres of farmland owned by the family and Francesco picks some grapes before being shown the massive cellars where some of the wine is over two hundred years old.

Also in southern Italy there was an area covered in extensive marshland that defeated eveyone including the Romans until Bennito Mussolin Italys Facist dictator with thousands of volunteers drained them.It was considered an impossible task but the Duce proved everyone wrong.

Francesco visits the town designed and built by Mussolini in an incredibly short time where a central tower stands higher than any building where he would talk to the towns population.

Francescos discussion on this part of early 20th century Italian history is especially interesting.

I was fourtunate enough to record this great series onto disc when it was first broadcast so long ago and have watched it a fair number of times.You never grow tired of watching it and certain bits really stick in your memory especially the almost fanatical religious beliefs and practices still carried out in the deep south.

I know the Italians are devought and deeply religious but even Francesco who could be described as a Northerner was shocked by the devotion of certain people.He almost appeared a total stranger in his own land.

A mention of Boticelli and Leonardo De Vinci aswell as Michelangello must be included.He discusses works by all three masters along his way.

Yes there is room for criticism in his choice of visits in the North but really how could such a mini four part series do a country as diverse as Italy justice.

When he passed Florence the journey became a MUST SEE,a pair of episodes that were trully magnificent and an insight to southern Italy that no foreign visitor would ever witness.

This series is one to savour and enjoy time and time again.The photography and Francescos captivating grip on his audience with that soft Venitian voice makes this a magnificent series.The use of an iconic Alfa Spider in itself to take us on our journey from the top to toe of Italy was a brilliant idea and an idea that really works.

To bring a touch of comedy to a beautifully paced series we see him being cautioned and given a parking ticket for entereing a town where traffic is not allowed.He could have editted this out but it seems to add a little something to our overall enjoyment of his journey.

Naturally the making of a travel series such as this must be incredibly expensive but the series could have easily have extended into further episodes.The material for a repeat series is definately there and possibly a greater look at the lives of those in the south would be of real interest.

Without seeing the last two episodes of Top to Toe you may think a four part series was the perfect length but southern Italy was so interesting and being narrated by somebody who knew his subject i wish he had included so much more,but obviously a mini series was better than no series atall.

Francescos Top to Toe was a long time in the waiting on DVD but im sure when the rest of us realise its been released copies will fly of the shelves of every dealer.

His Venice was magnificent,but Top to Toe especially the last two episodes will remain some of the best telivised factual material on Italy you are likely to see.
1515 comments151 of 167 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 19 June 2013
This trip through Italy gives meinsights I never had experienced. Iusually go the nice places like Venice, Florence, Rome and Sorrento. Seeing Matera in Basilicata was quite an eye opener to the fact that poverty is still a problem in the southern parts of Italy. But most of all, we also saw the immense beauty of the country and hitherto unseen social patterns and traditions. Coming from Venice with a Sicilian mother, he seems to be well suited to give us at bit of Italy. da Mosto is obviously from a noble family, well connected in all parts of Italy. There were no places he could not enter. He is a very charming person and no snob. Things are what they are.
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on 17 August 2013
It certainly seemed a very ambitious project to tour this fascinating country within the time available on two DVDs.
I was curious to see whether and if so, how Francesco would manage it. After enjoying his account of Venice and Venetian history, I was pretty confident that the result would be enjoyable. I was certainly not disappointed.

In fact, it turned out to be hugely enjoyable, largely because of Francesco"s engaging personality and his very idiosyncratic selection of routes and venues. He introduced us to novel aspects of well-known places and to interesting and delightful people. As I had expected, it turned out to be something of a whirlwind tour but nonetheless thoroughly worthwhile. I found the second disc more enjoyable than the first, but both of them amply satisfactory. It was an unexpected pleasure to have Maggie Smith join us, and a bonus to visit Sicily as well.

I'm looking forward to the pleasure of Francesco's Mediterranean Voyage.
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on 2 March 2009
This is a delightful trip through Italy from north to south. Some of the stops en route are predictable, others are quite new. Francesco is a pleasant guide and my only complaint was that it was too short. MOre time spent at some of the locations would have made a more satisfying DVD.
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on 23 August 2011
Francesco is an affable guide who mixes humor and pathos. The photography is exceptionally beautiful and all regions of Italy are covered. However, Rome has so much to offer, but this video gives Rome a brief amount of time, the Vatican is practically ignored. If you are purchasing this in the USA be warned that it is only viewable on a computer and will not play in your DVD player due to coding. If you are a student of Italian or merely a lover of all things Italian, this video is for you.
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on 27 September 2011
If you like Italy this DVD is for you, the scenery is beautiful, makes me want to visit all sorts of interesting places.
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I loved this series almost as much as Francescos Venice.The trouble was there so many possible places to go to, a 10 episode series wouldnt even begin to cover it.
Da Mosto is an engaging presenter, and the series has the sense to focus more on the locations than on him, which is more than can be said for some celebrity travel documentaries, where we see mostly them, and their inane,pointless prattle.
It was a nice touch at the end when he is given a suprise reunion with his family.If proof were needed in the nicest way, that Italian men are Mummy's boys, this was it, and it was nicely done.
For someone thinking of visiting Italy for the first time, this DVD gives an excellent taster of what is available.I have been very lucky to go to Italy several times, and my only problem, is knowing where to stop. I could tour Italy for months and still want to do more.
Enjoy the DVD and if you are going there Buon Viaggio.!
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on 31 October 2010
Francesco's journey together with his casual, but sincere, narrative make this an interesting insight to parts of Italy we wouldn't normally think of visiting. It varies from light-hearted traditional events to bloody self-flagelation as a display of religious devotion. Also a visit to the 6,000 corpses (there were 8,000 until the fire!) in the Catacombs of Palermo I can say, from first-hand experience, brought realism to the series. I had also been to some of the other places featured, like part of the way up Mt Etna but not to the summit as he did. He has a reasonably good voice, I'm not jealous I think it is OK and normal, but my other half comments often (too often) during the series on his sexy voice! If you are not too interested in travelogues, for Francesco's entertainment value alone, this is a thoroughly good DVD.Francesco's Venice : Complete BBC Series [DVD]
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on 7 March 2011
We first watched this DVD when it was on the BBC a couple of years ago. We loved it then and I bought the DVD for my Husband along with the Voyage DVD and Venice DVD also made by Francesco.

We are planning to go back to Italy very soon, and this is a great reference to help you decide whereabouts to go.

Francesco makes the places look wonderful. He has a spirit of adventure which comes across really well and transports you along with him on his journey's, and giving his travels the personal touch. He has almost a child like enthusiasm for the places he visits and in particular in Venice where he now lives and Sicily where he is from.

I think the tourist industry should thank him for making the places look even more appealing than they would normally do.

I would recommend any of his travel DVD's to anyone.
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