The Director’s Cut: the best Tuscan films

When it comes to reasons to visit Tuscany, the list is practically endless. Italy as a whole is home to some of the world’s most important historical and cultural wonders, from Roman aqueducts to the Sistine Chapel. Meanwhile, Tuscany is home to Florence, the cradle of the European Renaissanceand Pisa, home to stunning cathedrals and the infamous Leaning Tower.

Outside the urban centers of Tuscany, there is still plenty for a traveler to do on their agenda. The area is known for exporting top quality Chianti wine and olive oil, which means there are plenty of orchards and tours. Meanwhile, the rugged Apennine mountains offer endless hikes and stunning views.

Still, that doesn’t mean Tuscany isn’t home to some hidden gems. In fact, the region’s reputation for its natural beauty and delicious exports has made it a common subject for storytellers around the world, from EM Forster to Franco Zeffirelli. Even Dante Alighieri stopped in Tuscany to write his famous work The Divine Comedy somewhere in the mid 1300s.

Films have also drawn inspiration from the region, whether based on the unique landscape or the people who have called Tuscany home for millennia. And luckily for travelers who love Hollywood movies, there are quite a few stops in Tuscany that have been the scene of famous projects.

Classico Chianti and the Wild West

In the United States, Western films are incredibly popular. In fact, apart from cinema, it is still common to see other forms of entertainment focusing on region and time period. There are great movies like Monsters vs Aliensvideo games like Red Dead Redemption, and online slot machines titles that include bandits and cowboys on daring adventures in the Southwest.

In the 1960s and 1970s, European audiences also developed a taste for Wild West adventure stories. In fact, the theme became so popular that Italy developed its own “Spaghetti Western” subgenre, which featured Italian actors, writers, and directors.

One of these directors was Italo Zingarelli. Between 1954 and 1995 he produced 26 films, many of which were based on the Wild West. These included titles like Five Man Army (1969) and They call me Trinity (1970). To this day, Zingarelli’s family maintains a Chianti orchard just outside Catellina.

Those traveling through Tuscany can sample Zingarelli’s Rocca delle Macìe, which is sold worldwide. What few people know is that the famous Chianti Classico was built on Zingarelli’s success with his western films.

Life is good in Arezzo, Tuscany

When it comes to Italian cinema, few projects are as internationally recognized as 1997’s The Vita and Bella (Life is Beautiful) by Roberto Benigni. Although the film handles heavy content, it handles the life and trials of the main character, Guido Orefice, well, in fact, it even handles some well-timed comedy amidst the film’s dramatic themes.

The film was shot in Arezzo, Tuscany, which fans of the films will immediately recognize. Some of the most poignant scenes were shot in the historical Center, or historic center. Even for visitors who haven’t seen the film, the streets of Arezzo will offer plenty of sights and history to fill an afternoon.

A memoir worthy of Hollywood

Before Eat Pray Love became a hit in 2010, wrote Frances Mayes the book Under the Tuscan Sun to chronicle the tumultuous journey of his life. As a recently divorced writer, Mayes decided to move to Italy and buy a house in Tuscany to invite change into her life. Although not as catchy as the trek to India and Indonesia, Mayes’ book became a bestseller and, eventually, a movie.

The 2003 film by Audrey Wells stars Diane Lane and features a long list of Tuscan locations. Most of the film takes place in Cortona, including places like the Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze. There are also nods to other hotspots, such as the flag show and the wedding which both take place in Montepulciano.

Although written outside of Italy, the local Tuscan film commission played a vital role in adapting the book to film. In fact, the group was essential in supporting producer Tom Sternberg as he fought for an adaptation.