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Books and movies about Florence and Venice

We will be revisiting Venice and Florence in May, and would appreciate recommendations for reading (novels, historical fiction, non-fiction ), and also movies. Thank you!

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16996 posts

The classic Katharine Hepburn movie, "Summertime", was set in Venice.

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1265 posts

A Room with a View, by E. M. Forster, and its movie adaptation, set in Florence.

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5284 posts

Venice I can think of The Talented Mr. Ripley with Matt Damon and Gwenyth Paltrow, Casino Royale with Daniel Craig and going way back Don't Look Now with Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland.

For Florence you can watch Sir Anthony Hopkins hunt his prey in Hannibal. Other films, Tom Hanks in Inferno, both the 1985 and 2007 versions of A Room with a View, as well as enjoy Dames Maggie Smith, Judy Dench, Joan Plowright, Cher (yes Cher) and Lily Tomlin in Tea With Mussolini.

For reference for both cities in a fictional novel try the 2014 debut mystery Take No More by Seb Kirby.

A Florentine Revenge by Christobel Kent.

Historical novels: Brunelleschi's Dome by Ross King, The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant,

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18 posts

Film - Dangerous Beauty

Book - A Venetian Affair by Andrea Di Robilant

Both set in Venice. Both in old Venice (16th and 18th centuries). Both involving love one cannot have. And both based on true events.

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74 posts

I recommend Bread and Tulips, an Italian film set in Venice. It's set in what I would imagine to be an authentic Venetian neighborhood. A very touching and charming film. I second recommendations for A Room with a View and The Best of Youth. Three Coins in a Fountain is worth a watch for a view on how Rome and Venice looked over 50 years ago. Imagine being able to drive right up to the Trevi Fountain!

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6067 posts

My favorite for great views of Venice, especially the off the beaten path areas and neighborhoods is the Commissario Brunetti series. It's a German series with English subtitles but the Venice filming is extraordinary. The series of mysteries by Donna Leon that it is based on is also worth reading. What I like about the filmed series is that each episode is a 90 min movie based on one of the books and complete in itself, so they can be watched in any order. I had read all the books and then was able to get all of the filmed episodes from my library - each DVD included 2 complete episodes. What I especially like about this series is that it shows the real Venice (warts and all) in all types of weather, including the rainy season and the acqua-alta, not just the perfect weather seen in some movies.

Summertime, with Katharine Hepburn, is one of my all-time favorite movies but it is definitely dated. It is fun to see Venice without crowds of tourists.

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35 posts

"Venice" by Thomas Madden
"Brunelleschi's Dome" by Ross King
"The Stones of Florence" by Mary McCarthy
"Saving Italy" by Robert Edsel
and of course "The Agony & the Ecstasy"

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2 posts

If you have Netflix there is a series on there called "Medici: Masters of Florence". Most of it takes place in Florence although they do spend some time in Venice as well.

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1618 posts

You may to check out the Janus Films-Age of the Medicis. It's not an entertainment film, but brings to life much of the history and personalities of Florence. A great history review. We watched it right before going to Florence and it definitely made us look at things more closely. We borrowed a copy from the library.

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31 posts

I have no familiarity with the television versions, but I second the suggestion for the Brunetti mysteries. Beautifully drawn portraits of the city through the eyes of the characters. I've read several, and am saving the next two for my next holiday there.

Simon

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671 posts

I'll second the recommendation for the film 'Bread and Tulips'. Also, an excellent book about the 1966 flood of Florence is Dark Water (info on Amazon.com) by Robert Clark.

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243 posts

Nancy, thank you for the heads-up on the German TV version of the Brunetti series. They're my absolute favorite detective fiction series.

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258 posts

Fiction only:
Donna Leon series. Based in Venice.
I have just stumbled across the Marshall Guarnaccia series of mysteries by Magdalen Nabb. This series is based in Florence.

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6067 posts

Dale, I learned about the Brunetti series here on the forum. Just paying it forward. They are worth watching even if you don't know any German. If you've read the books they are easy to follow with the subtitles.

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3330 posts

Two books. "The City of Falling Angels" by John Berendt who wrote "Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil" is based on the fire at the opera house. "A Thousand Days In Venice" by Marlena de Blasi is based on her experiences living and marrying there.

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140 posts

Under the Tuscan Sun with Diane Lane...one of my absolute favorite films.

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835 posts

"The Venetian Game", by Phillip Jones, a novel set in Venice. Phil's a resident of Venice, and really brings the city to life.

About ten bucks on Amazon for your Kindle reader.

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1759 posts

It's quite funny that Leon made money setting crime novels in the town that Italian cops have used for years to hide mafia hitmen turned informants. And they did it during the mafia war of the 80s when Mr. Riina was "in charge"!

Wise-guys' wives tell in their memories they loved to stay there because Venice was so crime free that they could walk around with almost no precautions; followed by only one guardian angel in the distance for the first time in years.

The "Siege of Venice" could be an interesting book, too, but it's not a novel.

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11613 posts

I love Summertime, but in my opinion the best film shot in Venezia is "Nudo di Donna" ("Portrait of a Woman, Nude"). Some foreign film libraries may have it.

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3307 posts

My favorite film set in Venice is Bread and Tulips...it's set in present day and is about a woman whose ungrateful husband and teenage sons accidentally leave her at a rest stop while on vacation. She hitches a ride to Venice, one thing leads to another, and she builds a life for herself. It's fantastic! In Italian with English subtitles.

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109 posts

Hi Kat,

I'm not exactly sure what your taste are in regards to lectures, but on Amazon Prime there is an in depth lecture on the history of Florence. It's actually very fascinating. The lecture is by William J. Neidinger, it's a 3 part series that goes through the city's beginnings to where it is today.

Amanda

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3286 posts

The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi. Be sure to get the revised edition that includes an afterword about Amanda Knox. Non-fiction. Riveting.

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715 posts

1900 by Bertolucci

Tree of the Wooden Clogs by Olmi

Night of the Shooting Stars by the Taviani Bros.
Padre Padrone by the Taviani Bros.

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1804 posts

And we can't forget "The Italian Job," which opens with a heist in Venice, then moves to LA, and stars three mini-Coopers.

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547 posts

Before my first trip to Italy two years ago, I received the book Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered by Dianne Hales. Given that no one know if Lisa Gherardini even actually existed, Hales creates a story of what her life would have been like, if she did, exploring life in Florence at that time socially, politically and artistically. I found it a wealth of background knowledge for our visit to Florence and to my understanding of the importance of artists such as Leonardo and Michelangelo to every day life.

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842 posts

The Danish movie "Italian for Beginners" although they're in Venice for only the last part of the movie, it's great fun in a dry, subtle way!

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172 posts

I was fortunate to stumble upon the filming of "Inferno" in Venice 2 years ago. Watched Ron Howard film a scene in st mark's square. my husband and I paid for very expensive cappuccinos so we could sit outside at the cafe to watch. Such fun and pure happenstance. I hope you have a wonderful trip.