Il Giardino Dei Finzi-Contini (The Garden Of The Finzi-Continis) | 1970
One-time hero of neo-Realism, Vittorio De Sica was regarded as something of a spent force when The Garden Of The Finzi-Continis won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. The story of an aristocratic family Jewish family in pre-WW2 Italy hiding their heads in the sand as Fascism threatens was adapted from the 1962 novel by Giorgio Bassani, and was filmed in the story’s actual setting of Ferrara, in Emilia-Romagna, northern Italy.
The book was inspired by Bassani’s own experience of anti-Semitism in the city, where he had been excluded from university, allowed to teach only in a private Jewish school and obliged to publish his writing under a pseudonym. He is now, naturally, lauded in his home town.
De Sica remains faithful to the book, siting the villa and its garden on via Ercole I d’Este, as specified by the writer .
Ferrara, 30 miles northeast of Bologna, on the Po di Volano (a tributary of the Po), was home to the court of the royal House of Este. With its 14th and 15th palaces and wide streets, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The nearest airport is Bologna G Marconi, from where there’s a good rail connection, on the Bologna to Venice line. There’s also a shuttle bus for the 32-mile journey. It’s a very bike-friendly city, and renting a bike at the train station is the most convenient way of getting around.