What if Hollywood’s heart was in Piedmont?

Rest assured, this Christmas season we are all in the same boat. In fact, most of us will have followed the trend of the moment: pyjamas, blanket and off to movie marathons! Obviously always accompanied by a truckload of popcorn or other treats (or did you prefer Panettone?).

We Italians are known all over the world for our food, but our breathtaking locations are no less! We are lucky enough to live in a country that has mountains, sea, volcanoes, plains and breathtaking views in just 301,338 km2 (sorry if that’s not enough). Many destinations have been the altar for well-known American couples, but also the setting for several films!

As we live in Piedmont, we focus on the film activity that has taken place or been set in this region. So if you are a film buff, don’t think that you have to travel to Los Angeles to see Charles Chaplin’s bowler hat and Marylin Monroe’s shoes. If it’s more convenient for you, you can come to the Bel Paese. This time it’s time to leave the glittering lights, the chaos and the American exuberance behind and appreciate a more intimate Italian atmosphere. After all, Botte piccola fa vino buono. Our proverbial saying that recalls the more international “The best things come in small packages“.

To start off with a bang, let’s go straight to the capital of Piedmont: Turin. I chose this city not only because of its role, but also because it was the first Italian city where the film industry was established. The streets are many and intricate, but from above it is easy to recognise the place where we will begin this whirlwind of scripts, sets and screenplays. 

If from the photo your choice fell on that pointed dome, you did well because it is the right choice! To get to this building, I advise you not to take the car, we are in the centre of Turin (we are starting to get into the Piedmontese side) in a restricted traffic zone, so let’s avoid fines. This city is partly crossed by Italy’s longest river called the Po. But leave the speedboat to James Bond, we prefer a more traditional and trustworthy means of transport: our feet! So, legs on our shoulders, we walk along via Po and then turn into via Montebello. 

Mole Antonelliana Blog Piedmont Delights Cinema
The enchanting Mole Antonelliana in Turin
This imposing building is called the Mole Antonelliana, and when creations become like children, of course, they are named after the person who made them, in this case, architect Alessandro Antonelli. Imagined as a synagogue, it has come to house the National Museum of Cinema, and is now the tallest museum in the world! Since 2000, the building has been home to the National Cinema Museum. The Mole was the inspiration for the official emblem of the 2006 Winter Olympics, as well as those of the 2005 World Bowls Championships and the 2006 World Fencing Championships.

Forget about those visits you made as a child, characterised more by boredom, not yet ready to grasp the beauty of those paintings admired by mum and dad. In this case, you’ll find yourself a real explorer thanks to the interactive route! You will be immersed in costumes and props, you will be able to scrutinise photos and playbills dating back to the early 1900s. You’ll be amazed at how they were able to shoot films with only such rudimentary cameras.

In the National Cinema Museum, an entire area is dedicated to Italian silent films, including the film Cabiria, set in Turin. In fact, to be aware of this colossal, recognised as the most famous Italian silent film, you had to be a youngster or an adult in 1914, when the film by Giovanni Pastrone was released. The name Cabiria was chosen by the famous Italian poet D’Annunzio (I swear, we didn’t want it to be a lesson in Italian literature and history) which means “born of fire”. The plot is set at the time of the Second Punic War, in which the protagonist Cabiria is chosen as a sacrificial victim. From an unjust fate, she is fortunately saved by the character Maciste right at the place of the misdeed: the temple of the God Moloch. If it is not possible to relive the scenes set in the temple (perhaps better that way) it is possible to admire, in the cinema hall of the Mole, the statue of the God Moloch: it is really the original one of the film 🤩

We leave the museum, pick up the mobile phone, and type “Detroit” on Google Maps. It is true that this place is not in Italy, but it is necessary to mention it to talk about the next film, this time an American one! If the Punic Wars are a distant memory, the Korean War was a vivid and unpleasant memory in the mind of Walt Kowalski, an unabashed widower with a somewhat closed mind, played by the famous director Clint Eastwood. He chose this 2008 film to announce his last appearance as an actor. And he decides to end on a high note in the company of the Gran Torino car (from which the title is also taken), the only good memory of the protagonist that he partly built up while working on the Ford assembly line.
Gran Torino Film Blog Piedmont Delights
The historical Gran Torino
If Ford was inspired by Turin to produce the car bearing the same name as the Italian city, many other American filmmakers have chosen Turin and Piedmont as the setting for their films. So we can say it out loud: Hollywood is also Piedmontese! In Woody Allen’s film Hannah and Her Sisters, scenes from the opera Manon Lescaut were shot at Turin’s Teatro Regio, Charles Vidor’s Addio alle armi was partly filmed in the Lake Maggiore area, and Turin was chosen for Peter Collinson’s Un colpo all’italiana.

As we have mentioned Hollywood, we cannot forget the most eagerly awaited occasion of the year: the Academy Awards. Characterised by memorable moments and lots of glitter, we can define it as the most desired place for fans of the actors who tread the famous Red Carpet. It’s a great achievement to receive the coveted statuette, but it’s no less important to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture. This was the case with Riso Amaro, an Italian film from 1949 directed by Giuseppe de Santis. It was presented at the 3rd Cannes Film Festival, selected as one of the 100 Italian films to be saved, a true masterpiece to remember, especially for lovers of Vittorio Gassman, one of the characters in the film 😉

Riso Amaro Cinema Torino Piedmont Delights
The beautiful Silvana Mangano in Riso Amaro

The main character is Silvana Mangano, who plays a young woman who finds herself working as a mondina in the rice fields of the Vercelli area, situated in the hills of lower Piedmont.

We come to the end of this blog, telling you about a person who has entered the hearts of all of us Italians and is most likely known abroad as well 😊 I’m talking about Mauro Macario, a Turin native by name and by fact. In fact he was born and raised in Turin, a city that knows life and death of this person. Just to give you an idea of who he is, let’s start with the headlines:

  • Italian actor and comedian of theatre, cinema and television;
  • He is considered by critics to be the inventor of Italian comic cinema;
  • He has worked in over 50 variety shows.

He is a real stage animal (in the best sense of the word), not the first one who passes by 😉 He started out at the age of 18, in 1920, as a “mountain climber”, a Piedmontese term for people who performed farces and dramas at village fairs. His humble beginnings and endless apprenticeship were a good omen for him, and in the 1920s he was finally called upon to replace Totò: no less than Prince De Curtis, a prince in life and a prince in show business (called ‘The Prince of Laughter’) with a 100% Neapolitan heart. He took part in countless variety numbers, a true colossus! Macario reached the end of his career when he also found the Piedmontese theatre, achieving great success with the opera Le Miserie di Monsù Travet. It is impossible not to recognise him in the photos of the time: a rebellious topknot on his head, a funny look and a smile on his face!

Mauro Macario, the inventor of italian comic cinema
Surely it’s the same smile as when we satisfy our appetite 😋 While watching a film we get hungry, it’s impossible not to put something under our teeth. It becomes a real pleasure to watch a film while eating your popcorn, remembering the good old days when you could go to the cinema or even indulge in some junk food. But if we want to indulge, let’s do it with class! So yes to sugar, specifically caramel, which envelops the good, healthy Tonda Gentile hazelnuts. Yes, they originate from Lower Piedmont, which is still in the vicinity of Turin. I’m talking about the caramelised hazelnuts from La Venaria Cascina, our producer. Too simple? No problem, we have plenty of flavours! There are caramelised hazelnuts with chestnut honey for those who want something even sweeter; with chilli pepper for those who want a bit of pepper in their bodies, and even cinnamon and ginger.
Don’t like caramel? We’ve thought of everything 😎 You’ll be able to taste the raw flavour of these hazelnuts in the most classic versions with Toasted and Food-fired Roasted hazelnuts. A real Piedmontese delicacy 🤤
What will be your next film?

We are curious to know, tell us in the comments!

– Until next time, With love!
Elena