Recommend me some Italian stuff

My daughter Pianola is heading off for several weeks in Firenze (Florence, to you) at the end of the month, and the Ukulele Lady is wanting to present her with some cultural artifacts to whet her appetite for the coming Euro-debauch.

While I do eat a lot of spaghetti, I’m not really a connoisseur of Italian film or music. (When I want opera, I reach for Mozart or Wagner.) We’re getting DVDs of La Dolce Vita and Three Coins in the Fountain, because those are the first things everyone thinks of when they think about Italy-set flicks. Yeah, I know, they’re set in Rome.

I was thinking about The Bicycle Thief and the recently restored The Leopard, but they’re not about Florence, either.

Any Florence-fanciers out there, I would LOVE to hear about any geographically appropriate novels, movies, music (classical or popular) that would intrigue and entertain a fifteen-year-old, extremely intelligent (think Lex Luthor or Doctor Doom) girl.

Molto grazie.

By a staggering coincidence, I just got back from a few weeks in Firenza with Ms. Tanstaafl and our 18 yo daughter. (It was her graduation present.)

Daughter Tanstaafl had wanted to go to that part of Italy after seeing Under the Tuscan Sun so you may want to pick up that one. The movie was filmed in Cortona, which is about an hour by train from Florence. (If you go, check out the Trattoria La Grotta; we had a very nice lunch there.)

Another one you may want to track down is The Agony and the Ecstacy which is a (fictionalized) biography of Michaelangelo. (His David is at the Academia Gallery in Florence. You want to go see it when you are there. Really.)

I can pass on some more details if you would like; let me know or pm me.

A Room with a View (book and movie) and Tea with Mussolini (sort of autobiographical Franco Zeffirelli movie) are set in Florence. I am almost, but not entirely, sure that Paolo Taviani’s La Notte di San Lorenzo takes place in or near Florence.

Kinta Beevor’s A Tuscan Childhood is a classic.

There’s a recent series of murder mysteries set in Florence, by Magdalen Nabb – as far as mysteries go, they’re pretty standard, but she does a good job with setting the scenes with Florentine landmarks.

The Light in the Piazza, which I think is possibly the weirdest book ever, takes place in Florence, and it’s currently a Broadway musical.

I don’t think it will suck all the intelligence right out of her head, but Irving Stone’s The Agony and the Ecstasy (book, I’ve never seen the movie) is surprisingly decent at conveying a sense of Medici Florence.

Amacord by Fellini ought to do the trick. Don’t recall where it is set exactly, but it doesn’t matter. Fellini is Fellini and is plenty weird enough to fascinate a teenage girl (its about growing up in a small, Italian town).

As for music, if she hasn’t heard Madame Butterfly or La Boheme or Turandot or anything else by Puccini she’s being slighted (sorry, but German is just too guttural to listen to for any length of time, IMHO). I just got a copy of a mass he produced at 18 and which had been lost for decades and decades. Wonderful, beautiful, … too many adjectives. He lived at Torre de Lago, which is also in Tuscany and has the extra added benefit of being on a lake and having a resort atmosphere. You can rest assured that she’ll meet many fine, upstanding Italian young men who would love to show her the town and the finer points of Tuscan culture.

You might want to consider some of the comedies directed by Leonardo Pieraccioni (he’s Tuscan, and I think he’s from Florence), but it’s stuff for easy laughs. Not sure it is something a very intelligent girl might be interested.

Franco Zeffirelli is also considered quite a good director, with many interesting movies (such as his rendition of Romeo and Juliet) but also a handful of stinkers. So my cinema-loving dad assures me.

Allow me to second Fellini, not so much for its connection to Florence (next to zilch), but for his importance in the history of cinema. A good book on the history of Florence might also be a good idea.

I’m not Scared was one of my favorite movies last year, though it’s not that Italian. It is set in a rual village.

The Talented Mr. Ripley? The original Italian Job. The Postman, (not the Costner movie) oh and one of my favorite movies of all time, Cinema Paradiso.

Mary McCarthy (The Group, Memoirs of a Catholic Girlhood) wrote a book about the art and architecture of Florence you may want to check out.

You don’t mention how old your daughter is, but a nice wine is always appreciated. Perhaps a Barolo or Chianti?

La Vita é Bella (Life is Beautiful) is set in Tuscany.

Ripley was good, but not for the Italian elements, which seemed to me to be very much added on as an extra. The Italian Job was good, but only for one reason, and that wasn’t Italian :slight_smile:

On the other hand, definitely go for Cinema Paradios. Although not Tuscan, it’s simply a truly wonderful film. (Have the box of tissues ready :stuck_out_tongue: )

Um, how about something about some of those painters in the Uffizi? ** Botticelli, Michaelangelo, Fra Angelico**, Piero della Francesco - the Uffizi has a pretty amazing collection of paintings. You could go with something around this, Bottecelli’s ‘Venus on the Half-Shell’ (not the real name of the painting.) Or Michaelangelo’s David?

Thank you, everyone. UL reviewed the suggestions, hit the online shops, and ended up with

The Agony and the Ecstasy (novel)
Death in Venice (novella)
Death in Venice (dvd)
A Room with a View (dvd)
Under the Tuscan Sun (dvd)
3 Coins in the Fountain (dvd)

I quesion the validity of the Death in Venice movie…German protagonist and Mahlerian soundtrack. If I’d wanted to spotlight Venice for some reason, I’d’a picked Don’t Look Now.