Tomorrow, I am going to London with my parents. That means for the last month of my life I have been drowning in Shakespeare, Spice World, royal family trees, and One Direction albums (peace out, Zayn). It’s just a little thing I do before trips to absorb the shock from my unbridled excitement.
As I’ve watched #InfernoFever sweep Florence over the last few weeks, it’s clear I’m not the only one who has a thing for books and movies set in their favorite cities. It doesn’t matter how, let’s say, intellectual the subject matter may be–if Florence is featured in a starring role, many Firenze fans want to check it out. And while all of us wish we could be there in person on a city-wide Tom Hanks hunt, Florence popping up in pop culture makes it a little easier for long-distance admirers like us to feel like we’re still there and tide us over until our next visit. For those who have yet to visit, it’s a great way to fuel those pre-arrival city fantasies.
So, without further ado, I’m off to London! But I leave you with this parting gift: 10 ways to get your Florence pop culture fix. I can’t promise they’ll be historically sound, but I can promise they’ll prove good eye and ear candy over the summer ahead. Ciao!
1. Hannibal. Considering my love of scary movies, this seems like a good place to start. The sequel to The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal opens on a dreary Florence, where serial killer, Hannibal Lector, has gone into hiding. Stunning cinematography juxtaposes chilling scenes with beautiful piazzas. Added bonus: Anthony Hopkins is well-versed on his Florentine culture, dropping just enough historical crumbs to excite any nerd like me. (It’s also a book if you’re opting for some nail-biting beach reading!)
2. A Room with a View. E.M. Forester’s classic novel tells the tale of a young, repressed girl from Edwardian England, who “finds herself” while on vacation in Italy. Youthful rebellion set in our favorite city? I’ll take it! (No judgement here if you opt for the movie.)
3. Assassin’s Creed II. Yes, the video game. Assume the role of strapping young Ezio as he explores the streets of 15th-century Florence during the dangerous Pazzi Conspiracy (points for historical references in video games). See the city as you never have before, by climbing the Torre di Alfonso on the Palazzo Vecchio or scaling Brunelleschi’s dome. However, do note one very glaring omission: the Baptistery is MIA (really, Ubisoft?) Once you get past that, virtually jumping across town proves pretty fun.
4. Brunelleschi’s Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture. Ross King writes a compelling take on the crowning accomplishment of Florence: her dome. King covers artist rivalries, Renaissance wars, technical feats of engineering and mysteries about the city’s icon which remain to this day.
5. The Miracle of St. Anna. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, art historical intrigue and Florence. Drop the mic.
6. Inferno. Yes, I know, Dan Brown isn’t known for being historically accurate. Yet you can’t deny that a thriller through the gardens, passageways and streets of Florence will get you very excited for an adventure of your own. You can even walk in the footsteps of Robert Langdon thanks to Meg’s Inferno walk after you’ve read the book.
(Side note: I can’t continue in good faith without also attempting to persuade you to read the real deal, Dante’s Inferno. If you have a thing for hair-raising stories, I promise this one is even more shocking–and way more rewarding–than DB’s.)
7. From Marble to Flesh: The Biography of Michelangelo’s David. Ever wonder what makes Michelangelo’s David so special (apart from those superhero abs)? Victor Coonin brings his story to life by following his subject from his complicated to creation up and through his own starring role in pop culture today.
8. The Decameron. Up your literature game by tackling Boccaccio’s 14th-century collection of over 100 tales of love, laughter, trickery, death and life lessons (all which still hit remarkably close to home for the 21st-century reader). The collection of tales is told through the voices of seven young men and women who flee Florence during an outbreak of the plague. In true Are You Afraid of the Dark? fashion, the teenagers hunker down and entertain themselves by sharing stories (I can only imagine there was a campfire involved).
9. The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini. While historical, I promise this is a read you won’t be able to put down. Master of bronze casting and artist to the Medici Dukes and Pope, Cellini was not only a talented Florentine artist, but an extremely colorful character in Renaissance history. The only thing better than the life of Cellini? The life of Cellini in his own words. The artist proudly discusses his murders, mistresses, bedmates and Colosseum-devil-conjuring like it ain’t. no. thang. And in keeping with the rest of this list, he had a flair for the dramatic and took great liberty with historical fact. Cellini made no apologies, took no prisoners and wrote a wildly entertaining book. Beach-read approved.
10. Tea with Mussolini. Remember that time Cher and Judy Dench got together with the Dowager Countess from Downton Abbey and hung out in Florence? No? Then it’s time you rent Tea with Mussolini, a film set in Firenze in the years leading up to and during World War II. It follows the life of a young Italian boy who early on learns lessons from the likes of Hollywood royalty over tea. You know, like you do.
There you have it–some easy-breezy reading, watching and gaming to help you have a lovely Florentine summer, no matter where in the world you are.
…And if you’re thinking, “Wow, I didn’t think they could complete this list without mentioning Jersey Shore Season 4!” well then two things: 1. Yeah, we totally did finish the list without them! and 2. But we couldn’t close it out without mentioning our most popular post to date. If you’re one of the (seemingly few) people who doesn’t know what I’m talking about, head over here for a while different kind of Florentine fix.