In Italy there are places that are so special that seem to come from a writer’s pen. But they do not end up as just words on paper, they travel from one place to another to draw ink trails. Along city roads, mountain trails, coasts overlooking crystal clear seas, you will find incredible places, even better than book descriptions or movie scenes. Book and film lovers will have the chance to visit all those places described in best-sellers such as “The Name of the Rose” by Umberto Eco, “Angels and Demons” by Dan Brown and “Inspector Montalbano” by Andrea Camilleri.
The most beautiful Italian songs will be the soundtrack of your trip to Italy. Through the streets of the beautiful country artists and musicians sing catchy motifs and the most popular songs of Italian folk music, such as “Te voglio bene assaje” and “La Spagnola”. During the many Italian festivals, such as Hydrogen Festival and Festival Collisioni, Ravello Festival and Roccella Jazz Festival, you will have the chance to hear great national and international artists.
In Cremona, in Lombardy, music lovers will find old violin making shops and, while strolling through churches, palaces and towers you will hear the sweet notes of violins. In Milan, the San Siro Stadium is not just famous for football matches, but also for its spectacular concerts.
In summer, the Verona Arena hosts the best opera performances and light music concerts. If you love jazz, do not miss “Umbria Jazz” festival, held in July in Perugia, through the alleys of the historic centre, at Teatro del Pavone dating back to the eighteenth century, the Church of San Francesco al Prato and the Duomo.
In Sanremo the stage of the Ariston Theatre will host the performances of the best Italian singers and new emerging artists who will compete with their original songs. During the week of the festival, while walking through the streets of the city, from Villa Nobel to the Municipal Casino you will hear people whistling their favourite songs released for the first time during this huge event.
If you love opera and Giuseppe Verdi, just take a tour of Busseto, in Emilia Romagna. Starting with the bronze monument in the square dedicated to the great composer, you will then see the Teatro Verdi and Casa Barezzi, and finally Giuseppe Verdi National Giuseppe Verdi Museum.
Naples is synonymous with festivals and tarantella, but also international music. Neapolitan music is not just part of the DNA of this people, but also of the architecture of this great city. For example, the bossage on the facade of Gesù Nuovo you can see some symbols that, according to the art historian Vincenzo de Pasquale, represent Aramaic letters and musical notes. The outside of the church is indeed famous for its façade, which is like an open-air pentagram.
Ischia, with its blue sea, its lovely sky and its incredible aromas of wine and jasmine inspired the lyrics of the famous song “Ischia, paradiso di gioventù” by Totò, the unforgettable Neapolitan artist.
In Salento you will dance “pizzica”, a popular Italian folk dance on the night of the Taranta.
One more reason to visit Siracusa is its “Ortigia Festival”, with music, dance and visual arts. The ancient Greek city will be the ideal backdrop for performances by local and international artists.
To discover where writers who have made the history of Italian literature lived just take a tour of those cities and towns that host house museums celebrating the life of Italian writers and their immortal work.
Your first stop will be the district where Dante Alighieri, the author of the Divine Comedy, used to live. In Florence, in Via Santa Margherita 1, you can visit Dante’s old house and, in the same alley, the Church of Santa Margherita dei Cerchi, where probably Dante met Beatrice Portinari, his muse.
Petrarch, the lyric poet who love ancient codes, considered the founder of humanism, spent his old age in his thirteenth century “casaforte” in Arquà, in the province of Padua. You will see his studio and the famous Moorish style chair where, according to history, the poet died while reading Virgil.
In Certaldo, in Via Boccaccio 13, you will find the home of the novelist who wrote the Decameron. Boccaccio’s fourteenth-century home was almost completely destroyed during World War II and only the fresco by Pietro Benvenuti depicting Boccaccio while writing is well preserved.
Giacomo Leopardi’s house is a huge library with books that inspired the poet of “The Infinite”.
The Manzoni Museum, located in Milan, in Via Morone 1, offers you the chance to see letters and rare editions of his famous work, “The Betrothed”.
In Contrada Caos, bewteen Agrigento and Porto Empedocle, you can visit Pirandello’s eighteenth century country house. After crossing the garden you will reach the place where the writer’s ashes are kept.
To discover Turin through the eyes of the writer of “Invisible Cities”, you will start from the house located in Via Santa Giulia to reach Via Mazzini and the place where Italo Calvino and other intellectuals used to discuss stories and books.
Italy is not only popular among tourists, but is also appreciated by filmmakers who choose its cities and its landscapes as a location for their most important movies. “Movie tours” are those tours that give you the chance to visit all the places where the most famous movies and TV series were filmed. These are mainly small towns located throughout the beautiful country, which have now become the favourite destinations for movie lovers. Città della Pieve, a comune in the province of Perugia, for example, is known for the TV series “Carabinieri”, Gubbio for “Don Matteo”, Porto Empedocle for “Inspector Montalbano” and Castello di Agliè in Turin for “Elisa di Rivombrosa”.
In the countryside characterised by rows of cypress trees, you can visit the set of the movie “Under the Tuscan Sun”, starring Diane Lane. In the historic centre of Cortona, in the province of Arezzo, you will find all the most famous locations of this popular movie.
You maybe do not know that “They Call Me Trinity”, the famous Italian Spaghetti Western starring Bud Spencer and Terence Hill, was not filmed in the United States, but in Italy on Monte Camposecco, between Lazio and Abruzzo.
“Life is Beautiful” and “The Great Beauty”, two Academy Award-winning films, where filmed in some lovely and exclusive places, such as Montevarchi, Castiglion Fiorentino, Ronciglione and Rome.
To feel like in “The Postman” and learn more about Pablo Neruda’s metaphors, just take a stroll through the streets of Procida, while in Ischia you can visit Ischia Ponte, the lovely fishing village where some scenes of “The Talented Mr. Ripley”, with Matt Damon and Jude Law, were filmed.
In Sicily you can visit Palazzo Adriano, a comune in the province of Palermo where many scenes from “Cinema Paradiso” by Tornatore were shot, while to walk the streets of “The Godfather” by Francis Ford Coppola you just have to go to Savoca and Motta Camastra, in the province of Messina.
La Traviata, Madama Butterfly, Nabucco and Aida are just some of the opera works famous all over the world and performed in Italian theatres. Love, betrayals, twists and great music to give the public timeless emotions. But when the curtain falls, the show goes on, because theatres in Italy are a mine of stories and secrets. You will appreciate the architecture of these buildings almost as much as in an opera and you will feel the desire to learn more about them. To satisfy your curiosity, here are some interesting anecdotes.
The Teatro alla Scala in Milan was the first theatre, in 1883, to be equipped with an electric lighting system. On the night of Santo Stefano of the same year, the audience watched the premiere of “Gioconda” by Ponchielli and admired its incredible light effects.
The Teatro San Carlo in Naples is the oldest opera house in Europe and it still hosts major events. Rossini and Donizetti where two of its most famous directors.
Teatro La Fenice in Venice is named after the mythical bird the phoenix, which is reborn from its own ashes. Indeed, in 1836, following a fire, the theatre was closed for a year and, in 1996, another fire destroyed the entire building, except for the outer walls. In 2003, the theatre re-opened to the public with a concert conducted by Maestro Riccardo Muti.
The Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza is the best example of Palladio’s architecture. Built on an ancient Greek theatre model, but housed in a covered building, the theatre is included in UNESCO World Heritage Site list.
Teatro Massimo in Palermo is a majestic building, and the third largest theatre in Europe after the Opéra National in Paris and the Staatsoper in Vienna. Like all major theatres, it has its own ghost. It is called “ la monachella” and, according to legend, it makes stumble over the step called “gradino della suora” all those who do not believe in its existence.
But the biggest secret to learn about these buildings is that the theatre is the place “where everything is fake, but nothing is false” (Gigi Proietti).