While Neil Jordan’s The Borgias was rushed into the programming to coincide with the conclave, the new season is set to offer a new multi-episode version of Romeo and Juliet, produced by the largest private broadcasting company, Mediaset (no apparent relationship with the predilection of its owner, a former prime minister, for adolescent girls). However, this ambitious production has already made the headlines—”They stole Juliet”—for a very peculiar reason.
The first scenes were shot at Castel Toblino, an ancient and “magnificent stronghold that rises in the middle of Lake Toblino”, a romantic locale in Trentino, nowhere near Verona, in fact a different province altogether. Questioned about this choice, the film producer Luca Bernabei, waxed lyrical: “discovering many historical places here was an amazing surprise; castles, lakes, natural landscapes whose existence we ignored. This discovery was the reason why we adapted Romeo and Juliet in order to make it a Late-Medieval-taste movie [sic]”.
But behind this variation in time and place there probably lies a far less idyllic factor. Trentino is one of a handful of special-statute regions in Italy that enjoy greater autonomy and a more convenient fiscal regime; this, along with a civic ethos positively influenced by neighbouring Germany, makes this alpine heaven a very affluent territory. This has allowed the Trentino Film Commission, in a time of dire straits for Italy, to offer Mediaset €160,000 to move the star-crossed lovers further north and boost local tourism. No risk of them sporting a Germanic accent, though, since Romeo and Juliet will be played by Spanish star Martín Rivas and the Neapolitan beauty Alessandra Mastronardi (recently seen in Woody Allen’s To Rome with Love).
No eyebrows were raised in Verona, as far as we know, when Romeo and Juliet were magically transported to New York by Jerome Robbins or to Mexico City and Veracruz by Baz Luhrmann. These places were conveniently remote and whoever revives the Shakespearean myth is actually considered a precious ally in attracting even more visitors under the most famous balcony of world literature. But having your heroes flirting next door is more than you can bear, and many officials of Verona voiced their chagrin. A businessman like Shakespeare may have understood, and perhaps adapted to the situation his lines from Henry IV, 1:
I’ll have the current in this place dammed up,
And here the smug and silver Trent shall run
In a new channel, fair and evenly.