Bologna is considered one of the Italian capitals of cinema: as a matter of fact, many prestigious films have been shot in the shadow of the towers, and many filmmakers have grown up under the arcades, from Pasolini to Gino Cervi, Pupi Avati and Stefano Accorsi. Nor should we forget the many festivals, such as the Cinema Ritrovato and Sotto le Stelle del cinema, organised by the Cineteca di Bologna every summer in Piazza Maggiore, converted for the occasion into one of the most beautiful open-air cinemas in the world.
However, it is not only the city that has given birth to or fostered the protagonists of the silver screen: great personalities of the cinema have also drawn inspiration for their masterpieces from the outstanding territory of Bologna.
This itinerary will guide you through the various places linked to film-making in the province of Bologna.
Your itinerary starts in San Giovanni in Persiceto, namely in the magical and surreal atmosphere of Piazzetta Betlemme, where everything around you will recall a fantasy set, mainly thanks to an enveloping trompe l'oeil fresco that covers all the houses overlooking the square. Such work was created by Gino Pellegrini, a stage painter and set designer who, between the 1950s and 1970s, made his mark on the great season of Hollywood cinema, with such milestones as 2001: A Space Odyssey, West Side Story, Mary Poppins and The Birds. Back in Italy, Pellegrini pursued his art and transformed this corner of the village into a world suspended between reality and fantasy, full of curious details and optical illusions that are just as easy to get lost in as in a film.
The second stop takes us to San Giorgio di Piano, where the actress Giulietta Masina was born on 22nd February 1921. A muse and lover of Federico Fellini, she was an extraordinary artist capable of masterfully impersonating an archetype of melancholic and submissive femininity in a series of interpretations that made the history of 20th-century cinema.
A commemorative plaque affixed to the house where she was born, a porticoed building located at number 112 Via Libertà, marks her memory in the town’s historic centre.
The town of Minerbio and its countryside reveal a great cinephile soul, boosted most of all by the area's strong relationship with director Pupi Avati, who chose the town as his preferred set both for movie-related and for off-screen activities. In the area around Minerbio, the fairy-tale Castle of San Martino in Soverzano and the Parish Church of San Giovanni in Triario appear in the film The House with Laughing Windows (1976), the thriller-horror film that started the so-called Po Valley Gothic genre. The historical taverns in the centre of Minerbio, on the other hand, such as the historic Osteria dei Tarocchi, at the time a meeting place for many famous actors like Walter Chiari, Ugo Tognazzi, Gianni Cavina and Lino Capolicchio, gave rise to the idea behind the film Le strelle nel fosso (1978), a poetic tale with a dreamlike flavour.
Heading east, we reach the town of Imola, well-known for its motoring vocation, inevitably reflected on the silver screen with the filming of Veloce come Vento by Matteo Rovere (2016), mainly set in the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari. The circuit on the banks of the Santerno river is indeed the location chosen by Rovere to stage the Gran Turismo championship in which the protagonist Giulia, played by the Bolognese actress Matilda De Angelis, takes part, together with the extraordinary Stefano Accorsi. The chase on board an old red Peugeot through the alleys and streets of the old town is also iconic, amidst the noise of car horns and screeching tires.
When nature is the backdrop for actors and cameras, the hills of Castel San Pietro Terme cannot but be mentioned. Sure enough, the Sillaro Valley and the countryside around this spa town were chosen as an open-air set for some of the filming of L'uomo che verrà by Giorgio Diritti in 2009, also involving several extras among the inhabitants of the area. The heart of Castel San Pietro Terme, on the other hand, is the marvellous setting of the events narrated in Teresa (1987), by Dino Risi, featuring several iconic places, such as Piazza XX Settembre and the Church of the SS. Crocifisso, as well as various picturesque corners of the old town.
Moving into the Apennines, our first stop is the area of Monte San Pietro, just over twenty kilometres from Bologna. Here too, on a hill overlooking the banks of the Lavino River, where the village of San Chierlo nestles, director Giorgio Diritti shot some scenes of the film L'uomo che verrà, which recounts the tragic events of the massacre of Monte Sole by the Nazi-Fascists on the civilian population in the autumn of 1944. Nearby, it is worth visiting Officina Pellegrini, Gino Pellegrini's home-atelier, coming with the works, notes, projects, ideas and tools of the artist and set designer with whom great masters of Hollywood cinema have worked and collaborated.
Travelling up the Porrettana road, another unmissable stop is the Rocchetta Mattei in the municipality of Grizzana Morandi. Its perturbing forms, with the eclectic mix of styles desired by Count Cesare Mattei, have exerted a strong influence on several important directors.
To begin with, the building was used by Pupi Avati to shoot Balsamus, the man of Satan (1968), a courageous and provocative experiment carried out with semi-professional actors, not forgetting the seductive Enrico IV (1984) by director Marco Bellocchio with actress Claudia Cardinale.
Our last stop comes in the Alto Reno Terme area at Castelluccio, a village nestled on a ridge overlooking the surrounding valleys, built around the Manservisi Castle. It was here that Pupi Avati shot some scenes of one of his most successful movies, Una vita scolastica (1983).
The building, with its neo-Gothic features, towers, porticoes and pointed arches, was built in the 16th century by a noble family and subsequently renovated at the end of the 19th century. The interior rooms are furnished with period furniture and regularly host art exhibitions. Adjacent to the Castle is the Laborantes Museum with an exhibition dedicated to the daily life of the people of the early 20th century.