Hannibal the Cannibal is back on the big screen, busily ravaging Florence. Here are the places where his alter ego, Sir Hopkins, unwinds.
"I need to come out of retirement and come to public life, "Hannibal Lecter forewarns in Hannibal, next month's long-awaited sequel to the Oscar-snatching The Silence of the Lambs. The city that Lecter selects for his retirement years is the capital of "nice Chianti" - Florence, Italy. Posing as Dr. Fell, curator of the grand Palazzo Capponi, Lecter quietly lives the good life in Florence until the trouble begins.
Last spring, Sir Anthony Hopkins, who won a Best Actor Oscar for his original performance as the cannibalistic psychiatrist, spent several months living and filming in the Italian commune. Hopkins and the cast and crew of the big-budget sequel, which includes Julianne Moore and Gary Oldman, became well-known temporary Florentines, constantly trailed by paparazzi. Although he spent more time in character than he did sightseeing, Hopkins says he "enjoyed the whole experience of being there." The experience represents one more total immersion into a role for the son of a baker, born on New Year's Eve 1937 in Port Talbot, Wales. At 17, he wandered into a YMCA amateur theater production and knew he'd found his place in the world. In 1965, he auditioned for Sir Laurence Olivier, then director of the Royal National Theater of Great Britain at the Old Vic, and eventually became understudy to the master. But it was Hopkins' work in more than 90 films, including The Lion in Winter, The Elephant Man, Howard's End, The Remains of the Day, and Nixon, that placed him among the ranks of the finest living actors.
Becoming an American citizen last year, Hopkins now lives full-time in Los Angeles. But when the cinema goes dark, he will once again be Hannibal - long gone mad in Florence. Here are the places where he raged.
"Grand Hotel Villa Cora is just on the outskirts of the city. It's a beautiful old villa with large grounds and gardens. It's just up from the Piazzale Michelangelo and the Boboli Gardens and Forte di Belvedere. In 20 minutes, you can be in the center of the city. I found that very pleasant and took many pleasant walks. It's very crowded with tourists in Florence, like most Italian cities today. But Villa Cora is a small, quiet hotel. The Hotel Lungarno is a charming, smaller hotel with good food, service, and vicinity to all our locations. It's right on the river Arno overlooking Florence and the famous Ponte Vecchio. They also have apartments adjacent to rent. The Westin Excelsior Hotel is a beautiful hotel, also further down the Arno, recently redone."
"I went to one trattoria called Quattro Leoni, The Four Lions. It was just a trattoria, and I ate the same thing every night: a bit of fish and tomatoes and onions, and that's about it. I don't vary my diet. I sat at the same table every night and had my meal and went home. I like it because it was available, you can always get a table there and it was good food."
"The nightlife in Florence is actually surprisingly active. All the locals enjoy a stroll after dinner - they eat quite late - and congregate in the many piazzas, particularly the Piazza della Repubblica. As it was originally an ancient Roman forum, then became the central market until the end of the 19th century, it has always been a magnet for people. Many a cafe is open, with tables and chairs practically filling the huge piazza. Music is always present and one can sense everyone took this special time to enjoy his or her life a bit more."