so than Los Angeles, New York and London, there is one city above all others
that film producers, directors and location scouts depend on: Venice.
city’s good looks have provided the backdrop to some of the world’s most
popular movies and blockbuster franchises; there is a high concentration of
glitzy hotels and seductive restaurants, making it a firm favourite with movie
stars; and the city is home to the world’s oldest film festival, taking place from
28 August to 7 September this year as part of the Venice Biennale. On top of all this,
there is the Venetians’ near obsessive love affair with Hollywood.
are dozens of film locations in the city, featured in both classics such as Death
in Venice and Don’t Look Now, and contemporaries such as James Bond and Indiana
Jones. But many of these locations are hard to pinpoint, so equip yourself with
a reliable map and some sturdy walking shoes before heading out on a self-guided
tour. If the skies are grey, make sure you also bring a set of Venetian galoshes,
or plastic slip-over boots – notoriously, the city floods every year and the
famous Piazza San Marco can sometime lie under 1.5m of water.
at the portico walkways that surround the iconic Piazza San Marco. Over the
years, they have been used as a stage for Orson Welles in the 1952 version of Othello, Heath Ledger in Casanova – and by
Venetians as a gigantic umbrella when it rains. The grand, elegant courtyards
of the Doge’s
Palace and the Basilica
di San Marco still reflect the power of the Republic of Venice, but also
the power of movie magic: they were used to stage important scenes in two classic
James Bond films, 1963’s From Russia With Love and 1979’s Star Wars-influenced Moonraker.
Caffè Florian, a contender for the
world’s oldest coffee house, dating back to 1720, looks directly onto the
square and was used by Katherine Hepburn in 1955’s Summertime and by Matt Damon
in Anthony Minghella’s The Talented Mr Ripley. It does a brisk trade in
cappuccinos and cafe lattes, and is perfect for a mid-morning pick-me up. As in
the rest of Italy, you will save a few euros by standing at the counter, rather
than sitting at a table.
towards Campo di Santa Maria del Giglio, an area just west of the Piazza San
Marco, where Woody Allen stalked Julia Roberts in the light-hearted comedy Everyone
Says I Love You, then turn north to the theatre Teatro La Fenice and the nearby Ponte
Maria Callas bridge, dedicated to American-born Greek opera singer Maria Callas
who debuted at the theatre in 1947. Pass the Verona Canal, where gondolas
effortlessly glide by, on your way to Campo Santo Stefano, a square that leads to
a number of secretive Baroque courtyards and portico arches. Both Roger Moore
and Daniel Craig played 007 here, the latter chasing Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd in
the dramatic closing scenes of Casino Royale.
short 300m walk south takes you to the late 15th-century Palazzo Contarini
Polignac, an early Renaissance marble palace located alongside the Accademia Palazzo Barbaro, a 17th-century
Gothic palace on the Grand Canal that was used as the home of Lord Marchmain in
Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited with Laurence Olivier. Cross the iconic Ponte
della Academia to the hard-to-find Palazzo Contarini, another of the
city’s enduring private palaces, where the 2004 version of The Merchant of
Venice was filmed. This setting a classic example of why Venice works so well
on screen: its dark, atmospheric courtyards and streets are perfectly suited as
a stage for the wry Shakespearean dialogue between Al Pacino and Jeremy Irons.
far from the palazzo is Campo della Salute, one of the most recognisable
squares in the city and where Steven Spielberg brought to life the third part
of his Indiana Jones trilogy. In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the San
Barnaba church served as a more photogenic double for the exterior of the
nearby Biblioteca di San, and after Harrison Ford descends to explore the
catacombs, he then emerges from a manhole in the centre of the Campo della
Salute for one of the film’s pivotal action sequences. A 1km walk south back
along the promenade that fringes the Grand Canal brings you to the charming Hotel Palazzo Stern and its adjoining
boathouse, where Mark Wahlberg and Jason Statham embarked on the explosive bank
heist that kicked off their 2003 update of The Italian Job.
trip to Venice is complete without crossing the Ponte di Rialto, located a
further 1.5km along the canal. Thanks to its mix of vendors and unparalleled
viewpoints, it should come as no surprise that the bridge has been the backdrop
to numerous Hollywood flicks. Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie fooled around on
it in The Tourist, and Joseph Fiennes fell into the water from it in The
Merchant of Venice. Spend some exploring the surrounding bacaro (Venetian tavernas) that dot the neighbourhood, such as Al Pesador Osteria
and Osteria Antica Dolo. If you use
your imagination, you will also be able to place the two false buildings that
were destroyed during the climatic finale of Casino Royale on the opposite side
of the Grand Canal.
you want to splurge like only a movie star can, stay at the luxurious Hotel Danieli, located next to
the Doge’s Palace and the Bridge of Sighs. It is made up of three historic
palazzo, and both Depp and Jolie have stayed here. Alternatively, take a short
gondola or ferry ride from the boat stations in front of the Palazzo Ducale,
next to Piazza San Marco, to the Hotel
Cipriani on Isola Della Guidecca. George Clooney regularly stays here and,
even if you cannot afford the pricey room rates, it is worth popping in for an
early evening cocktail at the Gabbiano
Bar. When Clooney was in town to promote Good Night, and Good Luck, he
popped behind the bar and created two cocktails: the vodka and cranberry concoction
Buona Notte and the elderflower and passion fruit Nina’s Special, which he dedicated
to his mum.
is not the only convert. Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg and Charlize Theron also stayed
at the Cipriani; when Theron was in town for the Venice Film Festival she even
persuaded the long-serving head barman Walter Bolzonella to conjure up her
favourite pasta dish at 3 am after the kitchen closed. The luxury hotel is also
notable for its Cips restaurant, where Daniel Craig parked his yacht in Casino
Royale, and has unparalleled views across the lagoon to the Campanile, the bell
tower that dominates central Venice.
you want to share a changing room with some of these stars, then do not miss the
hotel’s swimming pool, one of the few in the city and certainly the most
extravagant, due to its size and unparalleled butler service.