(by Andrea Lolli - material taken from the book: Gran Sasso e Cinema)
The territory of the Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga National Park, one of the biggest nature reserves in Italy, holds a record that could envy (perhaps) only those held by the Grand Canyon National Park and Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park for the greatest number of film crews, with hundreds of domestic and international productions to its name. Many films have been shot in Gran Sasso and its canyons, ruins, plains, borgos and castles, including: …They still call me Trinity (featuring Bud Spencer and Terence Hill), Mario Monicelli’s All My Friends Part 2, Ladyhawke (starring Michelle Pfeiffer), Red Sonja (Arnold Schwarzenegger, Brigitte Nielsen) The Name of the Rose (Sean Connery, Christian Slater), King David (Richard Gere), Liliana Cavani’s Francesco (Mickey Rourke, Helena Bonham Carter), Night Sun (Julian Sands, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Nastassja Kinski), Così è la vita (Aldo, Giovanni e Giacomo) and The American (George Clooney).
The recently published Gran Sasso e Cinema (Ricerche&Redazioni, 2022) leads fans along the trails of Gran Sasso and through its magnificent borgos: the main locations featured in each film have all been carefully georeferenced using the most recent technology available. The book is easy to read and consult and has three sections: films, places and an easily consultable map to identify and recognise all the places cited. In addition to the book, files for digital navigation on smartphones or GPS devices are available to download.
The itinerary below is an extract of the book.
Download the coordinates of the movie scenes described in the book.Print itinerary
Situated at 1,250 m above sea level in the Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga National Park (province of L’Aquila), the ancient borgo of Santo Stefano di Sessanio, one of the most beautiful in Italy, which once hosted the most illustrious families of Italy, including the Piccolomini and Medici dynasties, is a good starting point for discovering the main filming locations of Gran Sasso. The area immediately surrounding the borgo has been used to shoot scenes for prestigious films such as: Liliana Cavani’s Francesco which stars Mickey Rourke and Helena Bonham Carter and Milarepa, Giuseppe Tornatore’s A Pure Formality with Gérard Depardieu and Roman Polanski, the ending of Luciano Tovoli’s The General of the Dead Army starring Marcello Mastroianni and Michel Piccoli, and Marco Modugno’s Briganti - amore e libertà, with Claudio Amendola and Monica Bellucci. The imposing, unmistakeable Medici tower which is emblematic of the borgo is always clearly recognisable.
See Movie Map point 24
Rocca di Calascio, an imposing fortification built at 1,460m above sea level at the foot of the Gran Sasso range, is one of the highest castles in Italy and Europe whose extremely panoramic position still provides the key to its charm today; it was deemed one of the world’s 15 most beautiful castles by National Geographic. The pre-eminent symbol of the region of Abruzzo, the castle starred in one of the most famous films of the 1980s: Richard Donner’s Ladyhawke, which starred Rutger Hauer and the young Matthew Broderick and Michelle Pfeiffer. The first half of the film was shot almost entirely in Campo Imperatore and Rocca di Calascio, with the Rocca acting as the castle of the Monk Imperius. The Rocca and the ruins of the ancient village of Calascio make brief appearances in other films such as Peter Yates’ Krull with Liam Neeson and Ken Marshall, or Melandri’s famous crucifixion scene in Mario Monicelli’s All My Friends Part 2. The final episode of the successful TV miniseries The Octopus 7, directed by Luigi Perelli, was shot both in and outside the Rocca.
See Movie Map point 17
The borgo of Castel Del Monte (province of L’Aquila) is the highest (1,346 m above sea level) in the Gran Sasso foothills and provides one of the most panoramic entrances to Campo Imperatore and the high peaks of the Apennine range. Numerous films were shot on the slopes of mount Bolza which looms over the village, including Peter Yates’ Krull, Ruggero Deodato’s grotesque The Barbarians and Daniele Vicari’s L’orizzonte degli eventi with Valerio Mastandrea. The borgo itself is best known as the main location of Anton Corbijn’s film The American, starring George Clooney and Violante Placido. The narrative events in the film are framed by the village alleys – which the municipality made available by special consent, as most of the residences were destroyed in the 2009 earthquake and are now almost completely restored to their initial splendour. Principal locations were via del Colle and vicolo di Gemmano where Jack (Clooney) lives, where he is followed and where he gets into his first gun fight and the Church of San Rocco with its gate where the final scenes of the procession were set. The film was shot almost entirely in Abruzzo (with some scenes in Rome and Sweden), mostly in Castel del Monte, Sulmona, Pacentro, Castelvecchio Calvisio, Calascio, Corfinio and Campo Imperatore.
See Movie Map point 38
At the heart of the Gran Sasso National Park is Campo Imperatore, one of the largest high plateaus in Italy which extends between 1,500 and 2,100 m. above sea level, which, with its famous canyon, is the undisputed star of numerous open air scenes in domestic and international cinema having one of the most evocative settings in existence, an environment that is completely devoid of human signs, that stretches out infinitely and stands metaphorically beyond time and space, it is a legendary, often mental place with similarities to Tibet, which has remained unchanged through time (and extremely close to the studio facilities available in Rome).
It is impossible to list all of the hundreds of films and videos shot on the high plain of Abruzzo, but these include titles like: Ladyhawke, King David, Red Sonja, Krull, The Barbarians, …They still call me Trinity, Il deserto dei Tartari (The Desert of the Tartars), Keoma, Night Sun, Francesco, The Name of the Rose, Così è la vita, Il viaggio della sposa, Liberi, L’orizzonte degli eventi, The American, Io sono tempesta, Tutte lo vogliono, Metti la nonna in freezer (Put Grandma in the Freezer) and many others, right up to the most recent, as-yet-unreleased biopic of the famous Italian car maker: Michael Mann’s Ferrari (2022) starring Patrick Dempsey and Penelope Cruz.
See Movie Map point 9