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Wertmüller the Oscar winner

Lina Wertmüller has often chosen to give a voice to the disregarded in her many films, to those whose defects have authenticity and whose weaknesses strength, who often face or are victims of life’s challenges. In the itinerary that follows, we have opted to showcase authentic places, working class areas where it still seems today that, looking a little closer, we could catch a glimpse of Sofia Loren, Giancarlo Giannini, Marcello Mastroianni, Mariangela Melato and those actors whose intensity made the characters they played immortal.

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The locations

Castel dell'Ovo
Region: Campania Type: Castello Territory: centro storico, mare
Church of Santi Marcellino e Festo
Region: Campania Type: Chiesa Territory: centro storico, città
Cemetery delle Fontanelle
Region: Campania Type: Cimitero Territory: centro storico, città
Fountain of Acqua Paola – Roma
Region: Lazio Type: Fontana Territory: centro storico, città
Trajan’s Market – Roma
Region: Lazio Type: Sito archeologico Territory: centro storico, città
Region: Campania Type: Città Territory: città, mare
Piazza del Campidoglio – Roma
Region: Lazio Type: Piazza Territory: centro storico, città, collina
Region: Lazio Type: Città Territory: lago, mare, pianura
Valle dei Templi – Agrigento
Region: Sicilia Type: Sito archeologico Territory: campagna

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Minervino Murge

In praise of the siesta

The tourist wandering the white alleyways and staircases of small villages and seaside borghi in Southern Italy of an early afternoon in the summer will find not a soul, just empty streets and an unnatural silence broken only by the sound of their own footsteps. In the South, today just as in 1963, the time after lunch is dominated by the controra, the siesta, when one gives in to heat-induced languor, staying at home or in the cool to rest. Lina Wertmüller used several municipalities in central Apulia for her debut film, such as Minervino Murge and Spinazzola, with excursions to Andria and to Palazzo San Gervasio, her hometown in the province of Potenza, to describe this in images, with her unmistakeable poetic approach. The Lizards of the title are actually the young people of the Southern province, for whom the siesta is a lifestyle: dozy like lizards in the sun, apathetic and listless, without a true aim, ideal or future. Whether one is more or less awake, living the siesta lifestyle is an unique experience.

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Cimitero delle Fontanelle – Napoli

Strolling through authentic Naples

As sang Enzo Iannacci, the art of “getting by” is intrinsic to the iconic characters of Seven Beauties (1975) who, one way or another, make their way, navigating the difficult times pre and post WWII, whether as guappi or newly-minted prostitutes. Pasqualino is a guappo: a small-time hood who likes to make sure he is paid respect while strolling the alleys and staircases of Naples, including the Scale del Moiariello a Capodimonte, with a flower in his buttonhole that he will later present to a young lady in Vico Sopramuro Ave Gratia Plena, and crossing the Ponte della Sanità looking proud. But the truth is another and one can’t expect to be respected when your older sister is a prostitute. With the wisdom of experience, local boss Don Raffaele reminds him of this while he is having his shoes shined in the Galleria Principe, pondering how the Cimitero delle Fontanelle at first housed only 500 skeletons, but these have over time become 5,000. It’s time to be imaginative. Having learnt the lesson, Pasqualino gets a driver to take him to the station: he leaves from Piazza del Duomo in Aversa, crossing the Rampe di Sant’Antonio in Naples, which offer a beautiful view of the Gulf from above, and reaches the courtyard of Castel Capuano. It doesn’t help: after an escape attempt over the roofs and arches around Via dei Tribunali, he is put on trial in the Sala dei Busti inside Castel Capuano and locked up in Castello Aragonese of Baia, in Bacoli. The Naples in the background of this story heaves with dignity. As it does after the war, when Pasqualino returns, deeply changed after experiencing the horror of Nazism.

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Church of Santi Marcellino e Festo – Naples

Still in Naples a few years later

Let’s stay in Naples, jumping forward several years. Camorra (A Story of Streets, Women and Crime) (1986) focused on another serious problem, the spread of drug use among children. Nunziata is a former prostitute who manages a boarding house in one of the city’s slums. The deconsecrated church which precedes it is actually the Complesso Monasteriale dei Santi Marcellino e Festo. Neighbourhood life revolves around its 16th century dome covered with ceramic tiles and the nearby Rampe di San Marcellino. The crime committed in the presence of a woman starts to become a problem for her when she finds out that her little boy, just 10 years old, has been initiated into drug use and is selling drugs: two ‘villains’ are taking him to Posillipo, outside Palazzo Donn’Anna. Nunziata’s friend Totò sees them and follows behind, down Lungomare Caracciolo (Castel dell’Ovo in the background), catching up with them in the park of Villa Volpicelli, where he is mortally wounded. He is taken to hospital in the Chiostro di Santa Maria delle Grazie Maggiore in Caponapoli, part of the Complesso degli Incurabili. As in a stage play, the mystery is revealed at the Salone Margherita, in the Neapolitan neighbourhood of San Ferdinando, but the surprises are not over: Frankie Acquasanta, Nunziata’s former lowlife lover attempts to escape over the roofs, but falls into the Galleria Umberto I. A short while later, 40 mothers march down Via Santa Teresella degli Spagnoli, in a parade dense with meaning.

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Piazza del Campidoglio – Rome

Between 1920s Fascism and places of antiquity

During the Fascist era, many stories intertwine, featuring love, revenge and competition. Main characters are strictly working class, people who are overcome by political events, who may survive through them but never see improvement in their quality of life.

In a small village in Sicily in 1922, everyone knows that Angelo Paternò was killed by Vito Acicatena but no one will talk at the trial. Inconsolable, his widow, Sofia Loren, paces the streets of the village shouting that she will get justice on her own. The key scenes of 1978’s Blood Feud (whose original Italian title – Fatto di sangue fra due uomini per causa di una vedova. Si sospettano moventi politici – has a Guinness World Record for the longest film title ever) immortalize areas that have survived for thousands of years, such as the Valley of Temples in Agrigento and the archaeological area of Segesta in Calatafimi (province of Trapani).

Heading to Rome a decade later, we meet Tunin, the farmer from Lombardy who intends to kill Mussolini. The main location for Love and Anarchy is a house of ill-repute in the Monti neighbourhood where the anarchic prostitute Salomè lives and works. The settings range from Fascist Sabaudia to ancient Rome, especially the area around piazza del Campidoglio, where the inescapable Fascist salutes the statue of Marcus Aurelius and settles “between the arms of God Tiber”, the sculpture on the staircase of the Palazzo Senatorio, and the Foro Romano, where Giannini and Melato are liberated of a dying man. Stunning views of the eternal city abound in-between events, from strolls on the Janiculum Hill to an ice-cream at the Pincio.

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