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Cinque Terre — meaning Five Lands — is an area comprising five villages on Italy’s northwest coast whose culture and natural beauty has made it a popular spot for visitors and a key inspiration for Portorosso, the fictional town that serves as the setting for Pixar’s latest film, Luca.
Set to debut June 18 on Disney+, Luca is the feature directorial debut of Enrico Casarosa, who was Oscar-nominated for his Italy-set Pixar short La Luna. As with all Pixar films, work on Luca involved research trips, in this case to the province of Liguria (which includes Cinque Terre), to inform the details and authenticity of the film’s setting, a seaside Italian village during the late ’50s.
Casarosa made for the perfect tour guide because he grew up in Liguria’s capital, Genoa. The filmmakers also assembled a “culture trust,” as Pixar calls it, as well as cultural consultants and Italian co-workers.
In Luca, two teenage sea monsters — Luca (voiced by Jacob Tremblay) and Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer) — have an adventure when they venture out of the Mediterranean sea and into a village, where they take human form. The idea was inspired by local folklore and legends, including the ancient tale of slayer “Saint George and the Dragon, which is a symbol of Genoa,” Casarosa explains, adding that the town of Tellaro (about an hour south of Cinque Terre) is a “charming fishing village with a legend of the Polpo Campanaro, an octopus who rang the bell of the church to warn the villagers of an incoming pirates raid.”
Cinque Terre — whose five towns are Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore — was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997 and is known for its steep hills of terraced fields that local organizations preserve. In 2015, the area drew 2.5 million visitors; during the pandemic, most travelers came from inside Italy.
For those planning to visit Cinque Terre, Casarosa suggests renting an apartment to experience the area. “I highly recommend walking between the five towns and trying the local wine, Sciacchetra,” says Casarosa. Elsewhere in Liguria, the director recommends eating “the most amazing” gelato at Il Siculo in Genoa as well as getting the focaccia al formaggio at Revello bakery in Camogli, a quiet village up the coast from Cinque Terre. (For more information on Italy’s COVID-19 current travel restrictions, see page 44.)
“One of my favorite times,” recalls Strijleva, “was when we went to the town of Manarola and there’s a huge rock in the middle of the marina and people climb and dive from that. It’s like a 35-foot-high rock. [Enrico] was like, ‘OK, I’m going to see you later.’ And he did this beautiful dive.”
This story first appeared in the June 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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