I don’t know about you, but I have a list of movies which are beyond beautiful and which draw me in so much that they make me want to buy a plane ticket every time I watch them. You know, those films which let you escape to a magical or exotic location, and are incredibly atmospheric making you feel as if you’ve travelled to another place?
One of the films like this which has been at the top of my list for years now, is Anthony Minghella’s “The Talented Mr. Ripley”. Based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith, this 1999 film starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, and Matt Damon takes you into a world of the 1950s filled with stylish wardrobes, mysterious plots, and breath-taking Italian scenery.
Through the past five years I’ve been able to visit most of the locations from this film while on various trips to Italy, and even if you’ve never seen the movie itself, these locations are highly worth a visit. I’ll begin at the location which is at the heart of the film: Ischia.
The Italian island of Ischia in the Bay of Naples is extraordinary in its own right – from the volcanic thermal spas and rocky cliffs, to beautiful beaches and ancient ruins – but one of my biggest motivations to visit here was to see where Marge, Dickie, and Tom lived! Here are some of the island’s highlights featured in the film:
Seen as the ever-present backdrop to many of the seaside scenes in Ischia (which is referred to as the fictional town of “Mongibello” in the movie), this grand castle is on its own island off the town of Ischia Ponte. The first fortress of any kind on this location was built in 474 b.c. by the Greek ruler of Syracuse. From that time many changes in ownership, occupation, and architecture have occurred. Inhabitants have included the Romans, Visigoths, Vandals, Arabs, Norman, Germans, French, Angevins, and probably most famously the Aragonians, whose ruler rebuilt the castle, fortified the walls, and built the stone bridge in place today. Today visitors can see a few churches, a crypt, parts of the abbey, a couple restaurants, museum, and art gallery. There is even a hotel located in part of the castle.
From the “Piazzale Aragonese” where one can look over the bridge to the Castello, turn towards the town and walk up the seaside street of Lungomare Aragonese until you reach the end. Here you will see the Palazzo Malcovati, otherwise known as “Dickie’s House” to those familiar with the film. This large stone building interrupts the sidewalk as it juts further towards the water’s edge. Unfortunately visitors are not allowed inside as it’s a private residence, but you can enjoy walking around the outside as you’ll quickly recognize the porch and balconies where the characters enjoyed breakfast and other scenes.
If you continue to the other side of Palazzo Malcovati (detouring through Via Luigi Mazzella), you will reach the seafront side of the house. Here is the bayfront area of the small Piazza Malcovati. Although much smaller in person that how it seems on the film, this is the area where the town celebrates the “Festival of the Madonna” and where Silvana’s body is discovered. Look up towards the Palazzo from this angle and you will see the balcony where Marge, Dickie, and Tom watched over the festivities.
One of the first scenes in the film when Tom arrives in “Mongibello” is on the beach where he first encounters Marge and Dickie. After some researching, I found out that this was the private beach club of “Bagno Antonio” located in Ischia Ponte on the road leading towards the neighboring town of Ischia Porto. On the road of Lungo Mare Colombo Cristoforo, the stretch of beachfront road commonly referred to as “Spiaggia dei Pescatori” (Fishermen’s Beach), this beach is a bit smaller than it looked on the movie. There’s a small clubhouse area with a restaurant which is open to the public and plenty of seating. If you want to enjoy a day on the sand with an incredible view of the Castello Aragonese in the distance, you will just have to pay a small admission fee which is customary at Italian private beach clubs. This will allow you a private chair, umbrella, and use of the facilities.
Overall, Ischia is an amazing destination for any visitor, but those interested in “The Talented Mr. Ripley” may enjoy it even more for the familiarity of feeling like you are in “Mongibello”. And Ischia is not the only location in the film…so stay tuned for upcoming parts to this series, where I will take you to even more Italian towns featured in this riveting movie.
All Photos by Erin Lewis.
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