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When the Roy family and their associates travel to Italy on season three of Succession, their obsessions and machinations play out against grand old-world tableaux, thanks to three magnificent villas that get substantial screen time.
In the eighth episode of the hit HBO show, “Chiantishire,” Roman Roy (Kieran Culkin) meets up with tech entrepreneur Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgard) at Villa La Cassinella, perched right next to Lake Como. Meanwhile, Lady Caroline (Harriet Walter), the ex-wife of patriarch Logan Roy (Brian Cox), is ensconced in La Foce, known for its glorious gardens and located in Southern Tuscany. A third elegant home, Villa Cetinale, also appears in season three.
To find and rent these filming locations, the producers of the show relied on a secret weapon: luxury travel consultant Emily FitzRoy. “I’ve just worked out that my surname means ‘bastard son of Roy family,'” she tells The Hollywood Reporter over a Zoom call from Venice. “I think it’s fate that I got involved.”
FitzRoy, the founder of bespoke travel and party planning company Bellini Travel, which she founded about two decades ago, worked with the Succession team to find all three homes, some of which have never previously allowed a film crew on premises.
“They were very, very lucky,” she says. “These places get booked up years and years in advance. Because of the pandemic — people weren’t getting married last year — we actually managed to get our feet in the door with relatively short notice.”
Villa La Cassinella, located on the western shore of Lake Como, includes a main residence, an infinity-edge swimming pool with 22-carat gold reflective tiles, a pool house with a gym and screening room, and a detached terrace house. The property accommodates up to 17 guests. “I love it because you can only get there by boat, and it’s extremely private despite being right in the beating heart of Lake Como, which has become very popular in the last decade,” says FitzRoy.
The production also spent a week filming at Villa Cetinale, a 17th century Baroque estate near Siena that was originally built for Pope Alexander VII. Edith Wharton included the property’s beautiful landscape in her 1904 book Italian Villas and Their Gardens. “Ironically, the last party I organized [before the pandemic] was a wedding in Villa Cetinale in October of 2019,” says FitzRoy. “I left Cetinale as a party planner and came back to organize a fake party this summer, which felt like quite a good bookend.”
Perhaps the most famous estate depicted on the show is La Foce, where Succession shot for three weeks. “The gardens are the most beautiful in all of Italy — ironically, designed by an Englishman. He invented the beautiful twisting lane of cypress trees that you see on every single postcard,” says FitzRoy of La Foce, which accommodates up to 24 guests.
“It comes with a very interesting history,” she continues, “from this American lady, Iris Origo, who married an Italian who moved there before the war. During the war, they hid a lot of prisoners of war, Jews, all sorts of people, in the woods surrounding the house. Iris Origo wrote these famous war diaries.” On the first scouting trip for the show’s sojourn to Italy, FitzRoy gifted a copy of the diaries to Succession director and executive producer Mark Mylod.
Mylod, who discovered FitzRoy online, got in touch with her last March, but his email to her went to spam. “It was total chance that I looked in my junk mail in March that said literally, ‘Dear Sir Madam, I am an executive producer of a show that you may not know.’ I was like, ‘Are you joking? Of course, I know it. I’m a huge fan of the show,'” recalls FitzRoy. “We did one call at the end of March. I immediately could tell where Kendall would want to stay. He would want slick American bathrobes and a much more contemporary feel, and Lady Caroline would want aristocratic gardens.”
All the villas used as filming locations for the show can be rented — some go for more than $100,000 a week — through Bellini Travel, whose clients have included members of the British royal family. “We only look after 100 clients a year,” says FitzRoy, who adds that she’s had “many clients like the Roy family. It was easy to advise [the Succession producers] on not just the houses that these people would rent, but also what they would drink, what they would eat, how the flowers might look for a celebration. For all of that, I hope I was of use to them.” The show’s producers, she says, “are obsessed with detail and authenticity.”
Frank Rich, an executive producer on the show, became friends with FitzRoy during the production. “She is just a force of nature, and she seems to know every single person in Italy and every establishment, every hotel, every restaurant, every villa,” says Rich. “And part of her role — once we had these wonderful locations she found for us — was to be kind of an ambassador for a company that involved several hundred people tramping through these villas. To make sure the owners were not in any way put off. All of it went swimmingly.”
During shooting, FitzRoy also became a de facto travel adviser for the cast and crew. “I knew there were wonderful restaurants down the road where they could go and eat or lovely hotels to stay on the weekends or after they wrapped. Some restaurants became real favorites, and there were some little hotels like La Bandita Townhouse in Pienza that was great. Everyone felt very at home.”
Rich calls the show’s Italy shoots “this magical time. It was June to late July, and there were no tourists yet. We were like the only American in almost any place we went. One of the actors went to see the David [statue in Florence], and he was the only person there. Alex [Witchel, Rich’s wife] and I passed through Rome. There were like four people on the Spanish Steps on a mid-afternoon. [Emily] gave everyone tips on where to go.”
Among the places FitzRoy recommends to stay near where Succession shot — in addition to La Bandita Townhouse — are Grand Hotel Continentale in Siena and Grand Hotel Tremezzo on Lake Como. Some of her favorite restaurants in the country are Ristorante Le Logge in Siena, Dopolavoro at the La Foce estate, Osteria del Leone in Bagno Vignoni, Locanda Il Paradiso in Chiusure and Ristorante Pierluigi in Rome.
“I loved every minute of it, and I’ve had the best summer ever being involved,” concludes FitzRoy of working on the show. “I had so much fun. They were like an old-fashioned theater company. They are really fond of each other, and there’s a warmth.”
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