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Francesco's Mediterranean Voyage [DVD]
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Venetian architect and historian Francesco da Mosto sets out from Venice to cross the Mediterranean sea - following in the wake of his ancestor, the explorer Alvise da Mosto - to discover the cities and islands where Western civilization was born. Sailing in a late nineteenth-century schooner, he starts his journey in Venice and finishes in Istanbul. Along the way he takes in spectacular ruins like the Acropolis in Athens and the Roman city of Ephesus in Turkey; sacred sites like the monasteries of Mount Athos and the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul; and beautiful Dubrovnik (destroyed and rebuilt in the last decade). Ancient history and bygone legends intertwine as Francesco visits these wonderful ancient sites, bringing the past vividly to life, and taking viewers on a thrilling cultural odyssey.
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The series spans twelve episodes, and offers some varied viewpoints courtesy of no less than four different directors. One common attribute is the outstanding photography, which by itself makes this purchase worthwhile. For the 3-month voyage, Francesco and the BBC had the excellent idea of reserving the Black Swan: an absolutely gorgeous classic sailing vessel whose majestic presence guarantees jaw-dropping visuals regardless of the surrounding scenery.
We have watched the two DVDs in the set at least a dozen times, without tiring of the spectacular cinematography. At each port of call, the presenter visits places of special interest and provides the charming, down-to-earth commentary that makes ancient history come alive and puts this rich heritage in the context of contemporary culture and daily life. It's the sort of intelligent television that we tend to want to revisit, so I'm glad we have these DVDs. A special mention should be made of the musical score, which is fabulous and the perfect complement to the sumptuous visual presentation.
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