Locked down in London .. Sicily on Screen
So once again we are in a full lockdown in London after a massive rise of Covid_19 cases in the United Kingdom.
It is now fourteen months since we shut the doors to our Sicilian home and with no 'light at the end of the tunnel' for the immediate time we are still trying to find ways of keeping Sicily in our hearts, as at the moment it is looking extremely unlikely that we will be able to drive home this spring as usual unless we have received the vaccine. Due to Brexit and the UK leaving the EU we would now have to quarantine on arrival which is impossible to do with Daisy our dog.
As we are totally obsessed with Sicily we love to watch movies, travel documentaries and cooking shows filmed there that fill us with wanderlust and make us excited for when we can finally drive home.
These insightful and inspiring shows certainly do help to keep Sicily in our hearts and you can ask my husband I do actually cry at most of them and that includes you Mr Ray Winstone in the closing scenes of your series with your beautiful words of what makes Sicily so special !!!
And so in this post I am sharing our 16 Must Watch movies, TV series, documentaries and cooking programmes, that we have been downloading and streaming during Lockdown and whilst waiting for the Covid vaccine, to help inspire your next visit to Sicily ...
The Godfather Trilogy
Probably one of the most iconic movies filmed in Sicily. The three movies directed by Francis Ford Coppola were inspired by the 1969 novel of the same name. The films follow the story of the fictional Italian American Corleone Family following Vito Corleone who after having to run away from Sicily as a child rises to be a major figure in organised crime in New York. His youngest son Michael becomes his successor. The Godfather is seen by many as one of the best movies of all time, while The Godfather Part II is viewed as one of the best sequels in cinema history. Much of the three movies were filmed in Sicily in the towns of Forza d'Agro, Savoca, Motta di Camastra, Fiumefreddo, Giardini Naxos and also in Palermo. A 'Godfather Tour' is a must do on any visit to Sicily to see the iconic filming locations.
Cinema Paradiso is a beautiful and moving Italian film with English subtitles released in 1988 which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film at the 63rd Academy Awards. The film was shot in the director Giuseppe Tornatore's hometown of Bagheria as well as other locations on the island. Told largely in flashback it is the story of a successful film director's childhood and teenage years in a Sicilian village and later the story of his return to his native town. It explores issues of youth, coming of age and reflections in adulthood about the past. The musical score and soundtrack compliments the film capturing the gentle nature and nostalgic feel of the story. It is a real feel good movie.
A Bigger Splash
In this simmering drama two ex-lovers are disastrously reunited at a isolated luxury villa on the exclusive Sicilian island of Pantelleria. The film stars Tilda Swinton as a world famous singer who is recovering from vocal surgery with her current lover played by Matthias Schoenaerts alongside Ralph Fiennes who dazzles as a rock'n'roll maverick and Dakota Johnson who plays his seductress daughter. A Bigger Splash is a sensuous portrait of desire, jealousy, intrigue and murder in a stunning Sicilian location. Pantelleria is a tiny volcanic island which is actually closer to Africa than Italy and is well known for its VIP visitors. It is known as Italy's top secret island.
Have your box of tissues ready for this tear jerker. Italo was a dog without an owner who used to stroll around the south eastern Sicilian town of Scicli. At first no one noticed him but then the locals started to notice him entering the church to attend mass and take part in funerals and weddings. In a short time he became the dog of everyone and mascot of the city. Through a local incident he became a local hero. He was also known to greet tourists and would escort them around the sites familiar in the TV series Inspector Montalbano. He was loved by everyone until the day of his death which grieved the whole town. In 2014 his story was depicted in this romantic comedy filmed in Italian with English subtitles.
The Leopard is a 1963 Italian epic period drama film based on the 1958 novel of the same title by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa starring Burt Lancaster. This novel is one of the most iconic books of all time. The story chronicles the changes in Sicilian life and society during the period when Garibaldi swept through Sicily with his forces to overthrow the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. The novel's main character is Prince Fabrizio of Salina. During the book and film we learn about the romance between the Prince's nephew and the beautiful Angelica whilst staying at the families country home in Donnafugata. One of the most iconic scenes in the movie is a grand ball and feast held for the Prince's aristocratic friends. The locations chosen for this movie are mainly around Palermo. The Leopard is a perfect excuse to practice your Italian language skills and literary knowledge.
If you are not a fan of horror movies then this one is not for you, personally myself and my husband love them, the scarier and spookier the better. In Cruel Peter an archaeologist uncovers family secrets in the ruins of Messina as he and his daughter find the grave of cruel Peter, the son of a rich English family, who was buried alive in 1908 in a coffin underground in the city's gothic cemetery after being ambushed and captured for his callousness to a servant boy. Then a powerful earthquake raises Messina to the ground and Peter is trapped and his whereabouts are forgotten until present day .... Dare you watch this movie from hiding behind a cushion to see the beautiful city of Messina?
Inspector Montalbano is an Italian television series based on the bestselling detective novels by the Sicilian author Andrea Camilleri which came to UK screens on BBC4 with English subtitles and later as a spin off series called Young Montalbano. Salvo Montalbano is the police commissioner of fictional 'Vigata' who investigates criminal crimes, which with thanks to his great mind and the help of numerous other characters he always manages to reconstruct the exact events to find a solution to solve the case, whilst often failing to resist the seductive qualities of fine Sicilian cuisine. The series now has a cult following bringing many tourists to the south east corner of Sicily where the majority of the series is shot, now making this area one of the most popular destinations on the island.
Based on a true story Corleone narrates the life of the notorious mafia boss Totò Riina between 1943 and 1993, from a difficult adolescence to his rise to power within Cosa Nostra. This subtitled series which we first saw on Sky Arts is also the story of his enemies and the martyrs who fought the mafia to extreme consequences, the mafia maxi trials in Palermo and the success in finding him and his arrest in 1993. The story is poignant and moving and makes you realise how awful the Mafia was and is utterly brilliant and well documented from the first episode to the end.
Gino's Italian Escape
Celebrity chef Gino D'Acampo undertakes a culinary journey through his homeland of Italy in his popular TV series "Gino's Italian Escape". In Series three "Islands in the Sun" Gino visits Sardinia and Sicily. In Sicily he explores the street food culture of Palermo then follows the western coast around to Marsala where he tastes the famed Marsala wine. He visits Agrigento and the Valley of the Temples, tastes sweet delights in Noto, discovers lemons on Mount Etna, makes his "first" cannolo in Taormina and visits the filming location of The Godfather the beautiful hilltop town of Savoca. Keep an eye out in Episode six whilst he is in Giardini Naxos for our friend Alex Lentini of Dive Sicily who lends Gino a jet ski to discover the Taormina coastline. In Series five "Gino's Coastal Escapes" he discovers the gorgeous Aeolian Islands.
Chef Rick Stein discovers the many varied delights of Mediterranean food in his series "Rick Stein's Mediterranean Escapes". In Episode three he enjoys the colours and operatic quality of Catania's fish market and in Palermo he discovers "one of the best pasta dishes I have ever tasted". One of our personal favourites is his series "Rick Stein's Long Weekends" when he revisits Palermo and I have to admit I cannot even remember how many times we have watched this episode, it is one of our all time favourite programmes set in Sicily. Rick meets up with the lovely Marco Romeo of Streaty Tours to discover Palermo's markets, he visits the sanctuary of Palermo's patron Saint Rosalia and visits the Palazzo Lanza Tomasi the last home of Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, the author of The Leopard, where he makes 'panelle' and drinks beer with the Duchess of Palma, Nicoletta Lanza Tomasi.
Paul Hollywood's City Bakes
Celebrity baker Paul Hollywood takes a break from hosting "The Great British Bake Off" in his series visiting cities around the world. In Season two he visits Palermo and discovers its street food and learns the secret of making perfect crispy and creamy cannoli and golden deep fried arancini. Watch out for our friend and celebrity Sicilian chef Enzo Oliveri from Tasting Sicily Enzo's Kitchen in London who introduces Paul to the delights of eating ice cream in a brioche and the unique speciality bread that is baked in the town of Monreale.
Jamie Oliver is a BIG fan of Sicily and Sicilian cuisine and has filmed many episodes of his shows in Sicily and its surrounding islands. In "Jamie's Great Escape" he takes his camper van to Italy to re-ignite is passion for Italian cooking and heads first to Palermo then on to the Egadi Islands to the tiny island of Marettimo where he meets fisherman Giovanni, the owner of one of Sicily's best restaurants, who Jamie then works as his assistant having to impress a restaurant full of hungry Sicilians. In "Jamie Cooks Italy" together with his mentor Chef Genaro Contaldo they take on the nonna's (grandmothers) of Italy, first stopping on the Aeolian Islands and then heading to Catania's fish market and then to a grand residence on Mount Etna to learn the secrets of Sicilian sweet desserts, often being told off by the nonna's on his style of modern cooking methods.
TV art historian Andrew Graham-Dixon and Michelin starred chef Giorgio Locatelli take us on a delightful journey around their beloved Sicily. Sharing a passion for all things Sicilian they make the perfect travel partners as they introduce each other to the things they love most about the island, exploring it through each others eyes and hearts revealing how the layers of history have created a unique blend of art and architecture and how the rich variety of different heritages have helped to shape both the food and culture of the island, whilst at times becoming quite animated with each other whilst expelling so much passion.
A Sicilian Dream
A Sicilian Dream is the story of the Targa Florio, the great road race formerly held in Sicily. Alain de Cadenet and Francesco da Mosto head to Sicily in Alain's Alfa Romeo to explore the course of the long distance classic road race and to find out about its history. Through dramatic reconstructions we hear how the Targa Florio was dreamt up by Vincenzo Florio, the son of a noble family, who longed to put his island home back on the international scene. This story explores the rich and varied history of the gruelling race that wound its way through the sublime Sicilian landscape for nearly seventy years.
Sicily: The Wonder of the Mediterranean
Another one of my personal favourites, historian Michael Scott journeys through Sicily in two episodes to find out how 3,000 years of conquest and settlement have shaped the identity of the island we know today. In Episode one he discovers how the Greeks began to settle on Sicily's east coast in our town of Giardini Naxos thereafter building great city states that soon came to rival even Athens. In Episode two he continues his journey tracing the island's story through the arrival of the Arab's and then the Normans. He also explores the dark days of the Spanish Inquisition and delves into the modern world of the unification with Italy, the rise of the Mafia and the current migrant crisis.
Ray Winstone's Sicily
Who would have thought that the 'Sexy Beast' himself Hollywood star and British actor Ray Winstone is one of Sicily's biggest fans? In his first foray into factual programming he travels the length and breadth of the island "like a hot knife through butter" accompanied by his friends, restaurateur Bruno Zoccola and sports present Matthew Lorenzo, taking in the history, food and culture of the island in his own inimitable style. He visits Palermo and follows in Rick Stein's footsteps visiting Nicoletta the Duchess of Palma, he visits Cefalù and the Aeolian Islands, Catania and Taormina, Syracuse and Marsala. He ends his grand tour of the island in the Sicilian hinterland in one of his favourite towns, Cianciana, where he throws a party with a barbecue and a band playing where his friends and family gather to answer the question, "What makes Sicily so special?". Cue me crying and blubbering out "I just want to go home!!!!!!"
If you enjoyed this Blog post then you might enjoy these ones from my archive 🠇
"The Godfather Movie Locations" https://whitealmond-privatesicily.blogspot.com/2014/10/the-godfather-movie-locations.html
"On the set of Inspector Montalbano" https://whitealmond-privatesicily.blogspot.com/2016/06/on-set-of-inspector-montalbano.html
"The Montalbano Filming Locations Tour" https://whitealmond-privatesicily.blogspot.com/2015/08/the-montalbano-filming-locations-tour.html
"Cinema Paradiso Movie Locations" https://whitealmond-privatesicily.blogspot.com/2020/05/cinema-paradiso-movie-locations.html
"Italo Barocco ... the Story of Sicily's Famous Dog" https://whitealmond-privatesicily.blogspot.com/2015/09/italo-barocco-story-of-sicilys-famous.html
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