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Giovanni Veronesi (ph. Franco Origlia)

text Giovanni Bogani
photo cover Franco Origlia

April 9, 2024

Giovanni Veronesi and his strong ties to Tuscany

Our interview with one of Italy's most appreciated directors, author of entertaining and never dull films

A Tuscan man in love with Tuscany. Giovanni Veronesi is one of Italy’s most popular directors, the author of entertaining and extraordinary films: the latest, released in cinemas last March, is called Romeo è Giulietta (Romeo is Juliet), which aims to disrupt the story and the viewer’s thoughts. And he is also the man who managed to bring a rock star like David Bowie to Tuscany, to act for him in Guslinger’s Revenge, filmed in the Garfagnana mountains. And who managed to bring Robert De Niro to Castiglione della Pescaia, to film The Ages of Love with him. At the age of 20, Veronesi left for Rome to make his dream of making cinema come true. But he has never disowned the region where he was born, where he lives most of the year.

Giovanni Veronesi and the actress Valeria Solarino, his life partner

Veronesi was born in Prato, but the place in Tuscany he loves most is the Maremma. And in particular, Roccamare, an almost unknown paradise a few kilometres from Castiglione della Pescaia. Sometimes, Veronesi goes around ‘his’ Maremma on horseback, like a cowboy. Or rather, like a búttero - a Tuscan cowboy. In Castiglione della Pescaia, Giovanni Veronesi also directs the Festa del cinema di mare festival. A ‘friendly’ event in the sense that there is no competition, and that the guests are all musicians, actors, directors chosen from among Veronesi’s countless friends, but one with a high artistic profile.

Giovanni Veronesi on horseback in Maremma

Giovanni Veronesi, why do you love the Maremma so much?

Due to the character of the people, who are sometimes gruff, but hugely generous. Due to the National Geographic beauty of this region. Because here I can ride a horse, and look at it that way, so natural, so wild. Because there are beautiful coastlines, there are inland villages, there are marshes..

The Festa del cinema di mare festival brings screenings and important guests to Castiglione every year.

It is an event that I am working on with the very talented Lorenzo Luzzetti, a great cultural organiser, picking up the baton of Claudio Carabba, a highly valued critic, who passed away a few years ago. It is a festival dedicated to twopersonalities who are no longer with us: Guido Parigi Bini, for years editor-in-chief of the ‘Nazione’, and Mauro Mancini, great journalists and sailing enthusiasts; the latter died following a tragic shipwreck in the South Atlantic together with Ambrogio Fogar. But the real festival is the country itself. The guests all come for free; I work for free myself. The only condition is that they give me the grave in Castiglione della Pescaia. I have already chosen where.

Giovanni Veronesi during the Festa del cinema di mare festival

The Maremma for you is like Monument Valley for John Ford...

The Maremma is an open-air set. I would shoot all the films in the world there, I also find it easier to frame there. It is a strong, tough, true nature. It is different from other, more celebrated areas of Tuscany, but more ‘relived’, with less soul.

What other places in Tuscany strike you?

The Val d’Orcia, which I discovered when the actors and crew lived for a month in a farmhouse near San Quirico d’Orcia.

Roccamare is also where you spent your teenage years.

It isa group of houses hidden in the green, between Castiglione della Pescaia and Le Rocchette. I lived out my teenage years there with my brother Sandro. A pine forest hides the houses from view; the dunes reach down to the beach. As a young boy, there was an elderly gentleman walking in the pine forest. I used to ride up to him on my moped to scare him. I found out later that it was Italo Calvino, one of the greatest Italian writers. Roger Moore, the 007 when I was a teenager, was also there. He spent his summers there, together with his beautiful daughter. I used to pass his villa up and down dozens of times: smiling at him, winking. Then I found out it was his double! He had also brought his stand-in on holiday, who acted as his bodyguard.

The beach of Roccamare (ph. Alessandro Moggi)

What feeling do you experience when you are in Roccamare?

Being able to start again. Whenever I experienced difficult times, I went to that special Lloyd Wright house, which my father had built and which is still so modern today.

Let’s talk about Robert De Niro. What did you talk about while working on the film together?

I asked him who was better between him, Dustin Hoffman and Al Pacino. He replied, “It depends on the character. If he is short, Dustin Hoffman is better; if he is mid-height, Al Pacino. If it is tall, me.” I asked him, “Why did you gain 20 kilos for Raging Bull?”, “Because otherwise Al Pacino would have done it!” he replied.


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