She came to Venice a tourist – And went home a woman!
So reads the tag line on the poster, I wonder if they considered Summertime – Eat the Ravioli?I’m in full on Italy prep with a list of movies to watch before the Grand Tour of Italy this summer. I begin with a personal favorite – Summertime (released in the UK as Summer Madness). Directed by David Lean and starring Katherine Hepburn, if you haven’t seen this romantic film you should, especially if you want to take a trip to Venice.
Venice is the star of every scene of this classic bittersweet 1955 holiday romance and it makes you want to be there wearing pearls, red lipstick and a white shirt dress, sitting in St Mark’s Square as the orchestra plays, sipping Apèrol and nibbling on olives.
Instead of the little street urchin I will have Rémy to catch my camera as I fall backwards into a canal… and we are planning a trip across to Bruano.
In Summertime Jane Hudson, a middle aged ‘fancy secretary’ from Akron, Ohio comes to Venice alone on a trip of a lifetime. She describes herself as “the independent type” but despite her bursting with excitement for her trip it’s quick to see she’s lonely. Enter Rossano Brazzi, the handsome, dashing, witty and charming Italian Renato. He says to Jane, “You may make lots of jokes but inside you cry.” As romance blossoms Hepburn is transformed – complete with beauty makeover and shopping trip for new red shoes – and we all know what red shoes means…He proceeds to break down her uptight American her up in a flurry of coffee dates in the piazza, a mini-break to the colorful island of Bruano and even a climatic fireworks display. (In the play that the script was based on he is a gigolo – too steamy for the fifties censors – so he becomes a shopkeeper instead).
Apart from the fireworks, their illicit love affair plays out in a subtle, sensitive and poignant homage to holiday romance and all its excitement and pitfalls. Long before Shirley Valentine, Under the Tuscan Sun and Eat Pray Love we have the same simple plot: older woman takes European vacation alone, is seduced by good looking married Italian and has a life changing affair.
This movie is worth watching just to be a tourist – as an armchair traveller or as a way of whetting your appetite for summer travel plans. The shot above shows how unchanged Venice is in over 60 years and great to see that the fountain is still there. Summer goals is finding it – I will wear white and Rémy will have bare feet! As the love affair plays out on screen we enjoy the city in full technicolor.
Alexander Korda told David Lean: ‘Don’t be afraid of the obvious places, David, go for the big effects. Don’t be afraid of the Grand Canal and St Mark’s.’
As the movie opens we are treated to a ride up the Grand Canal and we share Hepburn’s character’s wide eyed excitement for the architecture, waterways and bridges of the Serenissima, the floating city. There’s no shortage of gondola rides, at night, sunrise, sunset – we get to see the city of canals for breakfast lunch and dinner. And then there’s the famous scene when Hepburn steps back to get the shot and falls back into the canal as Mauro saves her movie camera as she’s falling. Another location to find but we won’t be swimming in the canal.There’s St Mark’s Basilica in all its glory where Minty will sing in July, and the piazza with circling flocks of pigeons where I will sip Aperol and who knows maybe I’ll buy eighteenth century Venetian glass. Remy is all about eating gelato across Italy and I’m getting him a T-shirt that reads “I just came for the gelato.”
Summertime – Eat the Ravioli
Having watched Summertime I may just be hungry enough to eat ravioli – we can all dream of holidays and romance and being open to new and exciting adventures.
Brazzi: “You are like a hungry child who is given ravioli to eat. ‘No’ you say, ‘I want beefsteak!’ My dear girl, you are hungry. Eat the ravioli.
Hepburn’s reply, which seems to always get left out of the quotes is, to me, the punchline:
“I’m not that hungry.”
Best type of ravioli I know is the raviolo at Mozza Osteria – a single egg encased in a giant ravioli pasta case that oozes yolk as you cut into it. I’ve made many a friend whilst eating it – people are curious to see what it is – it’s a showstopper and I’m sure Hepburn would have been hungry for more.
My mantra for Summertime – or actually anytime – thanks to this movie
Drink the Apèrol,
Buy the Shoes,
Ride in a Gondola
and Eat the Ravioli