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A Summer on the Italian Riviera with Luca

Discover more about Luca, the Disney Pixar feature-length movie that will take you to the Italian Riviera

This is that period of the year when we usually start plan our summer holidays. While we may have to wait a little longer before booking and packing, we can still travel with our imagination. And even get inspired by Luca, the new Pixar movie set on the Italian Riviera released today June 18th on Disney+

Luca, an Italian adventure

manarola cinque terre luca
The colourful buildings of Manarola, a frazione of Riomaggiore (in the featured image), one of the towns of the famous Cinque Terre, on the Italian Riviera

The official trailer contains the key elements of the story. By watching it, we can easily deduce that its themes are friendship and transformation (and the transformative power of friendship). It is set in summer, in a seaside town in Italy. As students of Italian, you may also recognize Edoardo Bennato’s song, Il gatto e la volpe, which describes the encounter between the Fox and the Cat and Pinocchio. Director Enrico Casarosa has chosen this song as a playful tune conveying the idea that Luca and Alberto are two friends who always get into trouble, like the characters in Pinocchio. Speaking of music, the director wished that Ennio Morricone could score the film, but he died before he could even ask him to do so. For this reason, the film will be dedicated to the great Italian composer.

The protagonists of this adventure are¬†Luca Paguro¬†and¬†Alberto Scorfano, whose surnames, meaning ‚Äėhermit crab‚Äô and ‚Äėscorpionfish‚Äô, respectively, immediately represent the underwater world they come from. They are two¬†teenage friends¬†curious about the mysterious world above the sea. In¬†Portorosso, the imaginary town inspired by the Cinque Terre, in Liguria, they meet¬†Giulia, a red-haired girl who will become their guide and friend. Together they will experience an¬†unforgettable summer¬†filled with¬†gelato,¬†pasta, and Vespa rides, all while trying to keep their secret.

A Movie Inspired by a Director’s Childhood

vernazza cinque terre
The picturesque village of Vernazza, Cinque Terre

Enrico Casarosa was born in Genoa in 1970 and remembered his summer holidays spent on the beach. The Italian Riviera is where he met his friend Alberto when they were the same age as Luca’s protagonists. At that time, Enrico was a timid boy, while Alberto was a real troublemaker; it was that kind of friendship that helps you grow up and discover who you are. And this is the spirit of the movie, which is a celebration of friendship and its transformative power.

Another aspect that inspired the film was the numerous¬†legends about sea monsters¬†from the area where Casarosa grew up. Since he has always had a fascination with regional folklore, it was quite natural for him to choose two sea monsters as the movie‚Äôs protagonists. Moreover, as the director explained, this is also a¬†metaphor for feeling different¬†‚Äď a widespread feeling among teenagers.

The Cinque Terre: Movie vs Reality

neptune monterosso
The statue of Neptune (1910), a work by Arrigo Minerbi and Francesco Levacher, is the symbol of Monterosso al Mare

Portorosso, the imaginary town where Luca is set, is inspired by the Cinque Terre, a popular tourist destination in Liguria and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Cinque Terre are five historic villages located between the hillside and the coastline, connected by scenic footpaths. Monterosso al Mare is the largest of them and hosts Villa Montale, the summer residence of Eugenio Montale’s family. The poet, a Nobel laureate, dedicated some poems to this village, the most famous being I limoni. However, it is Vernazza, with its picturesque coloured buildings and a charming piazza lined with restaurants and bars, that seems to have been the primary source of inspiration. The film authors wanted to transport the audience to Italy. They did extensive research to achieve their goal, including visiting Italy, tasting Italian food, and watching Neorealism films. That’s why the movie has a ’50s-’60s atmosphere, and its characters are working-class people resembling those of Federico Fellini’s or Vittorio De Sica’s works.

The others villages are Riomaggiore and Manarola, connected by the Via dell’Amore, an excellent path offering a romantic atmosphere and breathtaking views (currently closed for maintenance), and Corniglia, the only town in the Cinque Terre without direct access to the sea. The design team wanted to be both authentic and playful in the depiction of the environments. As a result, we will realize that it is a caricatured world, full of lively colours and exaggerated shapes, while also apprecaiting the attention they paid to minute details such as road signs.

With its bright colors and sun-soaked setting, Luca is definitely the perfect movie for summer.

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