I can pinpoint the exact moment that I knew I wanted to travel to Tuscany, Italy. I was watching “Under the Tuscan Sun,” a 2003 romantic drama starring Diane Lane. Lane played Frances Mayes who, after she is blindsided by her husband’s affair and divorce, takes a trip to Tuscany at the encouragement of her best friend. Mayes decides not to return to the United States, buys a villa and starts a new life.
The movie, which is based on a 1996 book of the same name, is one of my absolute favorites, but the first time I saw it, I actually cried. I couldn’t take my eyes off of what was being shown behind the scene — stunningly beautiful Tuscany landscapes. I became obsessed with Tuscany and read books, bought calendars and researched the area. Visiting this striking region of Italy immediately jumped to the No. 1 spot on my bucket list.
Mario Scalzi, president of Parker Villas in Italy, understands the impact that Mayes’ book and the movie has had on travelers. “Our business skyrocketed in 1996 with the book release of ‘Under the Tuscan Sun,’ ” he says. “For years, villa owners would parade boxes of copies left by guests as proof of each successful season. The few Italians that actually read it were appalled, but that's another story.”
Scalzi explains that Parker was the only villa company invited to the Hollywood premiere of the 2003 film version of the book. “Meeting the stars and strutting the red carpet was cool,” he remembers. “Cooler still, the movie became a welcome boost post 9/11. In 2007, we returned the favor and brought Disney execs to Abruzzo to engage with government officials in the hope of sparking a future project there.”
Many travelers have booked vacations based on their love of movies and other passions. For example, fans of “The Hobbit” can visit a Hobbit-like movie set in New Zealand while Harry Potter fans can head to London for Muggle tours.
“In June, I just sent clients on a trip where most of it was geared around visits to the locations that ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’ movies were filmed,” says Christine Cribari Tribble, a travel consultant with Lindstrom Travel in Rockford, Ill. “I can’t say that I see a rise in this type of travel, but I do hear clients ask if a particular location is where they filmed a certain movie or show.”
The most common destination that Tribble says she hears about is Highclere Castle, the filming location of the wildly successful television show “Downton Abbey.” “I always think that it is very cool if clients want to visit the places that films were made and use those films in my appeal,” she says. “For example, Kauai is the location where ‘Jurassic Park’ was filmed. It helps to give the client a visual of where they will be traveling to.”
Scalzi says that films often attract travelers to destinations. “ ‘Cinema Paradiso’, ‘Il Postino’, ‘Enchanted April’, ‘A Month by the Lake’, ‘The Talented Mr. Ripley’, and a few Daniel Craig’s James Bond films all attract customers,” says Scalzi. “Even ‘Seinfeld’ reruns of ‘Maestro — No Villas in Tuscany’ stir interest, as does a closing episode of ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ — with one of our villas as a backdrop!”
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