Italy could certainly not be left out of the world travels of the most famous of intelligence officers in her Britannic Majesty’s secret service, as he dismantles the evil conspiracies that threaten global safety. Varied and stunningly beautiful from North to South, the Italian peninsula manages to shake even James Bond’s proverbial British aplomb, with its art cities, mountaintop villages, endless landscapes, breath-taking coastlines and picture-postcard lakes.Print itinerary
Iconic Venice is certainly the most beloved of the many Italian locations chosen as settings for James Bond’s adventures. While what we see is not always real – the final gondola sequence of the second 007 instalment From Russia with Love(1963), starring Sean Connery and Daniela Bianchi, is clearly superimposed – this does not diminish the enchantment of the lagoon city: demonstrated by the fact that the agent returns, with other faces, many times to the canals and palaces of Venice.
In 1979, it was Roger Moore’s turn to ride a gondola across the city in Moonraker. Bond gets off at Piazza San Marco, looking for the Venini Museum belonging to his enemy Hugo Drax. The scene was shot in the shop Venini in Piazzetta dei Leoncini, next to the Basilica di San Marco. Inside the museum, Bond spots Dr. Goodhead (Lois Chiles), destined to be the film’s “Bond Girl”, and follows her through the Benedetto Marcello Conservatory to then fake a casual meeting in the Scuola Nuova della Misericordia. Back in the gondola, our hero enjoys the surrounding of Fondamenta Briati, but his relaxation does not last long: the customary chase sequence that follows takes us to the squero in San Trovaso, an ancient boatyard where gondolas are repaired, in the district (sestiere) of Dorsoduro, and across the Canale della Misericordia. After shaking off the villains, the modified gondola continues across land in Piazza San Marco, skirting the Ducal Palace and scattering the stunned crowds. The mission appears to have failed and, on the dock of Teatro La Fenice, 007 is offered a furlough that will take him up to space.
In 2006, Venice plays a key role again, in Casino Royale starring Daniel Craig as James Bond. Our favourite spy is spending his convalescence with his beloved Vesper (Eva Green) but danger is always just around the corner. We see him racing across a Piazza San Marco thronged with tourist crowds in search of Vesper who is meeting someone and find him again in the courtyard of the Benedetto Marcello Conservatory. This is followed by a gun fight of such violence that a palace crumbles, luckily only in the film.
The second of James Bond’s favourite places would have to be the lake. By the end of Casino Royale he has been severely tested by the mission he has just completed, although he has found love. For his convalescence, during which he mulls an important decision, he choses the picturesque setting of Villa del Balbianello in Lenno, on Lake Como. Situated on the Lavedo peninsular, with sheer rock walls overlooking the water, the villa is the unforgettable setting for a scene where he kisses Vesper beneath the loggia. Lake Como returns at the end of the film, but despite the beauty of the place immortalized – Gino Coppedè’s Villa, known as La Gaeta, in San Siro – there is nothing romantic about the scene set there, which is instead the final clash between Bond and his antagonist Mr White. Following that, our man will never be the same.
In the follow-up film, Quantum of Solace (2008), Bond chases his ghosts while being chased himself. His Aston Martin races at top speed along Lake Garda, passing through the areas of Gargnano, Campione and Tremosine, Limone, Riva del Garda, Torbole and Malcesine. The chase continues about 300km further south in the marble quarries of Carrara and, further down, in Siena as the Palio is taking place in Piazza del Campo. He crosses Piazzetta della Paglietta, a small square tucked away before the Campo and walks down the neighbouring alleys. A chase over the rooftops provides some splendid postcard shots of the Tuscan city. Once his time in Italy has come to an end, the action moves to London, Bregenz (Austria) and Bolivia (these scenes were actually shot in Panama and in the Atacamin desert in Chile). However, before he gets there, James returns to Tuscany: in search of help he goes to Talamone (GR) where his trusted friend René Mathis lives in a tower named Torre di Talamonaccio.
The Bond villain in the tenth 007 film The Spy who Loved Me (1977) is based in Sardinia this time. The secret agent, played here by Roger Moore, travels to Palau harbour in a horse-drawn carriage with the film’s “Bond Girl” (Barbara Bach) where he takes possession of a super-accessorized white Lotus Esprit. Backdrop to the classic chase is the breath-taking setting of the Costa Smeralda. Along the route, recognisable areas include San Pantaleo, hamlet of Olbia; Santa Teresa di Gallura where the Shark, who is chasing him, crashes into a shepherd’s hut; and the Nature Marine Area of Capo Caccia in Alghero near the Green Cave, where a villain in a sidecar runs off the road and hurtles down the cliffside. The Lotus ends its race falling into the sea from the bridge of the Hotel Pitrizza, but the submarine-car re-emerges on the Beach of Capriccioli, in Arzachena, to the general amazement of the beachgoers.
In For your eyes only (1981) Roger Moore flits between the abyss of the ocean to snowy mountain peaks as he investigates the shipwreck of the British craft, St. George, and its cargo. Greece is the main location of the film, in particular the island of Corfu and the rocky forms of Meteora and its monasteries. After the London-based prologue, the investigation takes the spy to the Bahamas and Italy, to the Dolomites. At the Hotel Miramonti in Cortina d’Ampezzo (whose interiors were recreated on a sound stage), the message Tofana 10 a.m. is written on the misted bathroom mirror. The following scene sees the cable car travelling up to the peak of Tofana di Mezzo. James meets his contact at an altitude of 3,000+m overlooking the panorama of the Valle del Boite. In the Olympic Ice Stadium, he meets his antagonist with his ward, while the customary, spectacular chase scene takes place on the bobsled run.
In Spectre, James Bond, played by Daniel Craig, is on a mission for the deceased M, who has ordered him to kill Marco Sciarra, a terrorist associated with a mysterious and tentacular criminal organisation. He begins a journey around the world that takes him to Rome. The Colosseum, Porta Pia, Borgo Pio, and St. Peter’s: monument after monument, we see the city flash by at 160km/h during a fast-paced car chase involving an Aston Martin and a Jaguar. The chase passes by Via Nomentana and ends with Bond’s car plunging into the River Tiber, while our hero, picture-perfect and without a scratch, parachutes down onto the riverbank. The interiors were reconstructed at Pinewood Studios in London, where the building inspired by the Royal Palace of Caserta and used for the meeting of Spectre, which seems to take place on Janiculum hill, was built. The Museum of Roman Civilization was instead transformed for the occasion into the cemetery where Marco Sciarra’s funeral is held.
Shot in Norway, Great Britain and Jamaica, No Time to Die, the 25th episode in the James Bond saga and fifth and final film starring Daniel Craig as 007, also used locations in Southern Italy for the first time. Happy with his beloved Madeleine (Léa Seydoux), James has decided to break with his past. The couple travels on the State Road 18, which features spectacular sheer drops over the Tyrrhenian Sea near Maratea, to reach Matera through a tunnel a several hundred metres long built near the Church of St. Augustine in the Sasso Barisano area. The couple’s hotel room with view of Matera’s Sassi was created near piazzetta Pascoli.
Shortly after, in Gravina in Puglia, its bridge of the Acqueduct arching above the rocky settlement, sees James forced to leap over the side to get away from the people chasing him. The village in Lucania and the borgo of Apulia – actually 30km distant from each other – meld in the fiction into a single landscape redolent of ancient traditions, rock churches and thousand-year-old caves dug out by hand and modelled by the forces of nature.
The Italian part of the story ends in Sapri, used as the stopping point for Civita Lucana (in reality 200km from Matera but in the film not far from the couple’s hotel). From here, the former 007 and his lover hurriedly leave the car to head inside the station. Amidst a hundred-odd extras as baggage-carrying passengers, Madeleine gets onto a waiting train and says goodbye to her man who stays on the platform.