I arrived in Tuscany with little to guide me other than a wonderful movie called “Where Angels Fear to Tread”. Released in 1991, it is one of those costume dramas that British film makers do so well, starring great British actors such as Helena Bonham Carter, Rupert Graves and Helen Mirren. It is based on a novel by E.M Forster, who also wrote “A Room with a View” (set in Florence and made into a film also starring Helena Bonham Carter). The action takes place in the fictional village of Monteriano, but for the film the Tuscan hilltop villages of Montepulciano and San Gimignano were used.
There is one scene in particular that I enjoyed in the movie and it is set in a theatre. I am unaware of any theatre in San Gimignano but there is the Teatro du Poliziano in Montepulciano. When I arrive it is firmly shut and, according to the young lady in the Tourist Office, will only open next Saturday for the scheduled performance. She does give me a helpful tip though: the music school behind the theatre hold the keys. So, I casually wander into the music school and seek out the administrative office. I explain to Sergio, the chief administrator, why I would like to see the theatre and he agrees to take me inside. I’m quite stunned at how easy it is to gain access, but Sergio seems to be quite interested in my reasons and asks for details of the film.
Once inside, I know that this is where they filmed the theatre scene. The horseshoe rows of boxes overlooking the small stage are so ornate and unique that it can be no other. In my mind, I can see Rupert Graves being lifted up into one of the boxes, and the opera singer on the stage. Sergio tells me that they also filmed a few scenes of the 1999 “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” here.
The next day I am in San Gimignano, seeking out the village square and hotel where the characters stayed. It’s quite easy to find as it is one of the main squares in the town. I can easily identify the ornate well in front of the Hotel Cisterna. But looking through the main door, into the lobby, I can tell that they must have used a different interior location. At the Tourist Office they tell me that the town has been used for many films and that there is a compilation of film clips in the Wine Museum. Unfortunately, it is closed for the winter, so I console myself with some tasting in one of the numerous wine shops instead.