cinetourism much ado about nothing
Vignamaggio is the location of the movie "Much Ado about Nothing", taken from Shakespeare's tale, and directed by Kenneth Branagh in 1992.
A Little Ado, If You Please, About a Very Special Villa
GREVE IN CHIANTI, Italy - It’s the same room, but the furniture has gone. Gone are the green twin beds, the big oaken chest of drawers I liked so much, even though it was half-eaten by woodworms. All my toys, all my books, my desk. Gone is my childhood bedroom. The memories are vivid, brought back by the familiar smell of wax on terracotta tiles. That hasn't changed. But 1 don't belong to the room anymore; I had to knock on the door, take a peek and see if it was all right to come in. I am interviewing Emma Thompson in her changing room. She is sitting on the bed looking tan and healthy, still in costume. It is the last day of shooting of "Much Ado About Nothing," Kenneth Branagh's production of the Shakespeare play, and there is this satisfied air about Ms. Thompson, poised and confident. The actress has plenty to say, about the movie, about her husband - Mr. Branagh, that is - and about herself.
As I sit on the floor across from her, I canno't help but think of the child that I was, sitting on this same floor, dreaming of great adventures and daring feats. I also remember - and here I have to hide a smile - running around in my pyjamas, a shower cap on my head, trying to chase the bats out.
I remember my grandfather telling me about the brave Achilles, the shrewd Ulysses, the terrifying Medusa. I used to kneel infront of the armchair in his room downstairs, drawing pictures for him. I wonder whose changing room that is today.
The window is open, and I can hear the shouts of the crew outside pulling down the set on the lawn - the same lawn we used to play and later sunbathe on hoping the gardener wouldn't catch us without our tops on; the lawn where we all crowded around for family pictures, birthdays, and weddings. The last of these was my sister's, nine years ago. But that is recent history. The house itself goes way back. The model for Leonardo's Mona Lisa, they say, used to live here; her family, the Gherardinis, were the original owners. An ancestor, Gherardo Gherardini, emigrated to Ireland, where he became Gerald - patriarch of the Fitzgerald clan. There is a photo of myself as a child, sitting on that same lawn with Caroline Kennedy, come to visit her ancestral home. I remember the Easter egg hunts in the garden out front, and the great family Christmases with the huge tree covered in lit candles, my grandfather afraid it would burst into flames. There were always dogs and children everywhere. And then of course, there was la vendemmia, the grape harvest,where I ate more then I picked. Working in the cellar, bottling wine, was exciting. I always brought a picnic lunch so I could eat with the workers, mostly women whose husbands toiled in the fields outside.
The cypress trees in the garden are the tallest I have ever seen, and the most imposing, especially at night, when they are nothing but huge black shadows. In the daytime, when you drive across the gentle tuscan landscape of vines and olive trees on the way up the hill, you see them proudly keeping guard. I remember about vipers in the summer, and the excitement I felt when I caught a glimpse of a wild boar in winter.
The house, or rather the villa, is big; we lived in about a third of it. The rest was badly run-down. I used to explore it with a friend, braving the mice, the spiders and the rickety staircases. We found a room that we adopted as our hiding place, the secret room no one knew about (or so we thought until I found a naughty poem my father and his cousin had written on the wall in the 1940s),
The owner today is a lawyer. A modern man, sharp. He has turned the house into a business, quite rightly. That's the only way if he wants to keep it. And losing such a place is a sad experience.
Emma Thompson talks on, about Shakespeare, Jane Austen, feminism. But I am not giving her the attention she deserves - fortunately I am there with a colleague - I want to interrupt her and tell her how much I love this place, what a treasure it is. But that would be most unprofessional. So I hold it back and ask her another question, for I have a future to think about.
“International Herald Tribune”
Wednesday June 23rd 1993
- Historical Villa
- Monna Lisa and Leonardo da Vinci
- Italian Garden
- Vineyards and olive groves
- Photo gallery
- Video gallery
- Where we are
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