The story of Romeo and Juliet is pure fiction. Italian men screaming “bella” at foreign women from their cars, or chasing them in the streets is also pure fiction. It might have been true in the 50’s when American women were much more liberated than most Italian women and it showed in the way they looked, but nowadays, in 2010, no sane man would do that. If they find the courage to talk to you to begin with is already a miracle!
Not sure why I expected more than I expected from Under the Tuscan Sun from this movie… maybe because I had read somewhere that this was a decent romantic comedy set in Italy for a change. Well, it is not. It is the usual movie that contributes to stereotypes about life in Italy, love in Italy, Italian men, travel to Italy, etc.
That is good and bad at the same time. It’s good because these movies usually prove to be the best promotional campaign for the locations where they are filmed: no advertising has brought more people to Tuscany than Mrs. Mayes’s book’s silver-screen treatment.
It’s bad because there are in fact people out there who believe that if you come to Italy on holiday, and you follow a woman to her office, you will be welcomed by her and her colleagues and asked to join in instead of being kindly asked to leave. Others might believe that every old person can in fact speak English. Or that somebody might in fact be upset if, after politely inviting a perfect stranger to stay for lunch, that person refuses: it is much more likely that they will feel relieved.
And last but not least… if you are so lucky to find your Lorenzo again, and he asks you to marry him 50 years later in front of his family, don’t expect a cheerful toast and lots of big smiles at the dinner table, unless you are loaded or you have previously signed a prenuptial agreement in which you renounce all rights to the inheritance of the beautiful vineyard… older people getting married here come with a crowd of worried relatives! The only thought that saved me from falling asleep at that point was the idea that Vanessa Redgrave and Franco Nero have in fact been together for over 40 years… so some of those looks must have been authentic!
If you manage to get past all the stereotypes and misconceptions, well, at least the views and panoramas portrayed in the movie are fantastic. There are a few weird things: the Sienese mansion where they meet one of the “Lorenzos” is in fact near Verona (Villa Arvedi) and not in Tuscany, and the last place where they go is also the first place they visit (everybody knows that Tuscany has a shortage of nice locations, so that had to reuse the same one, just on the other side of the road…), but all in all the locations are fantastic.
If you are wondering where the scenes in Tuscany were shot, well, I am not sure where the picnic table under the oak tree is but I must find out! The place where they are staying is the beautiful Relais Borgo Scopeto, near Castelnuovo Berardenga. The other places should be the farmhouses of the Caparzo estate (which also includes the Relais) that extends over a large area near Montalcino. The beautiful estate of Cantina Argiano is also included.
Bottom line: enjoy the movie, but don’t believe that is everyday life here.