Few comedians are able to make people laugh by exaggerating the defects and virtues of the Italians, like Checco Zalone. Recurring elements in his films include his Southern Italian roots, some stereotypes that need overturning, a dream that has yet to be achieved, love and travel. This last theme gives us the opportunity to explore the numerous locations used in the four films: some are easily identifiable, others are disguised as different places. Let’s look at them together.Print itinerary
Apulia, the motherland, is the departure and arrival point for almost all the Checco Zalone films. In his debut, Cado dalle nubi, Checco lives in the picturesque Polignano a Mare, he is in love with his long-term girlfriend and aspires to be a musician. Here we see the historical centre, the white houses clinging to a rocky cliff wall overlooking the turquoise sea and the elegant overlook of the coastal road. It is impossible not to recognise it and impossible not to feel a little regret in leaving it, when we head, with him, to Milan.
There is a fairly similar outline in Quo vado?. Here Checco has achieved his dream, a long-term “job for life” as a public servant in Conversano, a small town in the province of Bari. The Provincial Office of Hunting and Fishing where he works is in piazza XX Settembre (the offices of the real local council) which is situated opposite the home where he lives with his parents. In the background of a scene on the terrace where Checco chooses pasta shapes from a case offered by his adored mother, we can make out the town clocktower. In other scenes we recognize the cylindrical tower of the Castle of Conversano and largo Cattedrale and the Castle of Marchione where Checco intends to ask Penelope to marry him. However, Fate rears its head when the provinces are abolished and a long adventure begins, which will take Checco to many stopping places and, literally, to the other side of the world.
In Che bella giornata Checco is no longer living in Apulia although he returns for a baptism. The setting is the fairytale land of Alberobello: the party, set amidst the trulli and dry stone walls typical of this part of the world, features another famous entertainer from Apulia, a resigned Caparezza, who fields requests that don’t really fit with his image as a tough, ironic rapper, and invites us to come and dance in Apulia with one of his most famous hits.
In Sole a catinelle Checco has been living in Monselice (province of Padua) for 30 years, where he works as a waiter. However, his passion for high finance stimulates him to leave his reliable job to get into vacuum cleaner sales. This works out well for a while until the recession hits. Despite this, Checco promises his son Nicolò a dream holiday as the reward for a school report with top marks. Goal achieved, they set off for Molise where Checco’s family live. Stingy Aunt Ritella (Eutana-Zia) lives in a farmhouse in Valle del Biferno, near Casacalenda. The areas of Molise seen in the film include the tiny borghi (medieval centres) of Provvidenti, Guardialfiera, Limosano, Montecilfone, Palata and Petrella Tifernina. The nostalgic atmosphere of these borghi, ideal for those who want to relax, is exagerated in the film. Checco searches for other children amidst the elderly inhabitants of these places: “They are just like people, just smaller, with no beard and a lighter voice” and Nicolò is not happy. The holiday in Molise ends here.
Milan is the city that offers a thousand opportunities. In Cado dalle nubi the capital of the Region of Lombardy is the place to go to recover from a disappointment in love and to start a singing career. However, Checco, uncultured and small-minded, finds it hard to integrate into a place where it is easier to be gay than it is to be Southern Italian: “Hey, who is that? A power ranger?” Checco asks Marika’s father, a fervent supporter of the Northern League political party, about the statue of Alberto da Giussano, the party’s symbol.
Milan is the place where a dream comes true in Che bella giornata, where Checco is an unlikely security guard at the Duomo. The story focuses on the Gothic gargoyles of the Cathedral but there is still time for a trip outside the city to Lago di Alserio for a picnic with Farah and several scenes on the Navigli, in Parco del Ticino (Farah’s home is the Cascina del Guado, on Naviglio Grande) and Turbigo. And in Cuggionothere is, surprisingly, a trullo that Checco has inherited from his grandfather.
In Quo vado? Checco was prepared to do anything to keep hold of his “job for life” position. He is sent, somewhat sadistically, to the following destinations: (in order) Val di Susa (the Sacra di San Michele, an Abbey perched on the top of Mount Pirchiriano, appears briefly), Sardinia (the Santu Antine hill and the town of Genoni in the Sarcidano area appear for several seconds), Lampedusa (a fleeting glimpse of the coast), before he is sent to the North Pole and then to Aspromonte, although this is actually Cervara di Roma. The Africa of the prologue and epilogue appears as if by magic in the nearby National Park of Circeo (province of Latina).
In Sole a catinelle a fortuitous encounters changes the outcome of Checco and little Nicolò’s holiday. So we cross the countryside of the Maremma to Orbetello and admire Abbey of San Galgano, the ancient open air church of Chiusdino, famous for the “sword in the rock” which Saint Galgano thrust into the ground only to transform it into a cross on the day of his conversion. The holiday continues in Liguria, amidst the frescoes and Murano glass of Villa Durazzo, a 17th century historical residence set in parkland in Santa Margherita Ligure. A series of events starts from here: a charity party, an improbable economics debate in Portofino, yacht trips, golf matches, horse riding and many other adventures that Nicolò will never forget.