At some point a few months ago, my job required working on a commercial. You might immediately think, “Amazing! How Fantastic!”. Yes, I can’t lie. It is fantastic, but I had a tight deadline. I needed to find a really stunning location that was indoors, had long corridors and also very spacious rooms. It also had to be artistically striking and a place that makes your jaw drop when you see it, that makes you feel like you want to live there and enjoy it daily. In the end, we chose a former Benedictine Monastery, but not before I’d done a complete study of numerous locations around Mount Etna that have made it onto the big screen. Here’s my top five films and locations.
“Una Notte Blu Cobalto” featuring Catania by night, or rather, Catania by night on a Vespa. It’s an independent film shot entirely within the city. The protagonist, played by Corrado Fortuna (who’s since come a long way and proved to be an excellent writer), climbs on a Vespa, cobalt blue, of course, and goes around delivering pizzas. At one point, he circles around the elephant near the cathedral. You see a bit of Via Garibaldi with its “fortino”, one of the ancient gateways of the city. This scene gives me a lump in my throat.
“I Baci Mai Dati” featuring the Porta de Belleza (the Gate of Beauty). This film was much talked about when they shot it in Catania. They filmed it in Librino, a neighbourhood on the outskirts. It’s the same place my favourite rugby team, the Brigantis, come from and play. It goes without saying, I love the scooter scenes in this film too. There are a few very beautiful ones, for example, when the female protagonist passes near a flyover painted blue. It’s the Porta de Belleza, which was donated by a local philanthropist and decorated by many local artists. Even the schoolchildren worked on it, painting it with their own hands. No one has ever touched it. It remains there, whole and intact, reminding us of all the hard work that went into it.
“La Terra Trema” featuring the Cyclopean islands of Aci Trezza. I studied this film at university. I’m still grateful for its beautiful story since I learned so much about the cinema from it. For example, I learned to watch films with a somewhat more critical eye. The Cyclopean islands in Aci Trezza (which are really a pile of enormous rocks in the middle of the sea) are the backdrop of this masterpiece by Luchino Visconti. He started off making a documentary, but in the end made a film based on I Malavoglia, the book by Giovanni Verga. I too, in Visconti’s place, would have let myself been inspired by the landscape
“Storia di una Capinera” featuring the Hermitage of Saint Anne. After Luchino Visconti, comes Franco Zeffirelli. This film is clearly based on the novel of the same name (also by Verga—who I like immensely, in case you hadn’t noticed). But it’s enough just to focus on the setting. The Hermitage is in the small village of Aci San Filippo. After a morning on the water around the islands of Aci Trezza, you can take a small road, which climbs up and up the hill. At the top is the little chapel with a square in front, offering a stunning view.
“Palombella Rossa” featuring the Thermal Baths of Acireale which, incidentally, are in a very beautiful place. Nanni Moretti made a film here, which so embodies his unique style, it’s impossible not to mention it —if only for the poolside conversation between a journalist and the main character, Michele Apicella, a water polo player, interpreted by Moretti, himself. The scene is now famous. “What are you saying? What are you saying? Words are important!” screams Moretti’s alter-ego, Michele, as he sits at the edge of the pool in the shadow of Etna.