Andrew Graham-Dixon Art critic, journalist, TV presenter, author, lecturer and educationalist.
Andrew Graham-Dixon Art critic, journalist, TV presenter, author, lecturer and educationalist.

ITALY UNPACKED 2013

Andrew Graham-Dixon and Giorgio Locatelli continue their cultural adventure, this time traveling throughout the North of Italy.

Last year, art historian Andrew Graham-Dixon and acclaimed chef Giorgio Locatelli visited Sicily, in the South of Italy, in Sicily Unpacked.  This time round, they are at the opposite end of the country, not just geographically, but politically, culturally and economically.

The fertile Po valley, or the Grassa as it’s known, is closer to Europe than to the Italian capital Rome. Giorgio and Andrew visit major cities like Turin, Milan, Bologna, but also smaller gems like Mantua, Ferrara, Modena, and Cremona, exploring some of the most beautiful rural areas in Italy – landscapes of pasture lands, lakes, forests and mountains, unfamiliar to many visitors.

Each episode of the series visits a different region of Northern Italy – Emilia Romagna, Lombardy and Piedmont.  The food, products and luxury goods from these regions are known worldwide, from Parmesan and Parma ham, to Ferrari and Fiat, and the art is amongst the most beautiful in the country.  Yet these regions are often overlooked by tourists, as they fly over, or drive through, on their way south to Tuscany or Rome.  Giorgio and Andrew want to put that right and have teamed up again to unpack the art and culture, food and landscape of an area of Italy that they are passionate about.  Their aim is to put these areas of Italy back on the map, places that are far too beautiful and important to simply be passed through.  Giorgio has also a more personal reason: he was brought up in Lombardy, so this Italy is his Italy!!

Italy Unpacked, Fridays at 9pm BBC2, 11-25th Jan 2013
DVDs of Italy Unpacked are now for sale, click here


Episode 1 - The Art of the Feast
Andrew Graham-Dixon and chef Giorgio Locatelli travel through Italy exploring the country's history, culture, food, art and landscape. Their journey begins in Bologna, the capital of Emilia-Romagna, one of the richest regions in Italy. They find out why the city is know as la Dotta (the Learned), la Grassa (the Fat) and la Rossa (the Red), while visiting its shops, art institutions and the oldest university in the world.
Andrew and Giorgio experience the social and friendly atmosphere of the region and meet fishermen casting huge nets at the mouth of the river Po. From there, it is a short journey to Ferrara where they discover the legacy left by the famous dynasty d'Este, and to Modena, home of balsamic vinegar and Ferrari.
Finally, Giorgio reveals the source of modern Italian cuisine - at the Palatina Library in Parma he views an original copy of the first cook book of the newly united Italy - while Andrew admires Correggio's magnificent fresco in the dome of Parma Cathedral.

Episode 2 - Looking to the Future
The second leg of Andrew Graham-Dixon and Giorgio Locatelli's journey takes Giorgio home, to Lombardy, a region brimming with engineering innovations and the influences brought by the proximity to Northern Europe, always with an eye to the future.
The first stop is of course Corgeno, Giorgio's hometown, where Andrew is the guest at a typical Sunday Lunch at the Locatelli's home.Andrew repays him with a visit to some very unusual frescos by Lorenzo Lotto, hidden in a private chapel. The Christ with long fingernails is one of Andrew's favourite frescos.
And it's time to reach Milan, the capital, with its temples dedicated to the Gods of religion (The Duomo), art (La Scala) and capitalism (the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele the II and surroundings streets, full of luxury shops). At his restaurant inside La Scala, the chef Gualtiero Marchesi (father of the modern Italian cuisine) would intrigue his custumers with a risotto made with saffron and... gold.
But Milan is not just about beauty and style, it has a dark centre. It is an arena of extreme political contrasts. Fascism was very strong here and so was the opposition to it. In Milan the Futurists movement embraced the world of modern art, and expressed the violence that would shape modern Italy under Fascism - a dark but fascinating story, that Andrew and Giorgio will investigate with a visit to the Museum of 900.
More amazing art is waiting for them outside Milan, in the gem that is Mantua, a town full of mesmerizing buildings. Among those, the diamond in the crown is Palazzo Te, a former hunting lodge built for the amusement of the Duke Federico Gonzaga and his guests, designed and covered in frescos by Giulio Romano, a disciple of Raphael.
And to end this fascinating trip another well kept secret: Cremona, hometown to the one of the most famous luthiers in the world: Antonio Stradivari, where Giorgio and Andrew will have the privilege to be the spectator of a very private concert.

Episode 3 - Land of Many Treasures
The final leg of Andrew Graham-Dixon and Giorgio Locatelli's journey moves north to Piedmont, a land of luxuriant forests and tall mountains. They visit an abbey along the Via Francigena, an ancient road running from Rome to Canterbury, to reflect with the monks who live there, and to admire the fresco in their chapel.
Giorgio and Andrew go truffle hunting with Sandrino and his dog, and have a succulent breakfast with one of the precious nuggets, straight from the soil. There are many more gastronomic treasures to discover in this region, from the famous rice fields of Vercelli, to the Gianduiotti in Turin, the region's capital. Giorgio chats to the founder of slow food, Carlo Petrini.
Andrew explores the baroque architecture all over Turin. Stupinigi, a former hunting lodge made for the Savoia dynasty, and the Castle of Rivoli, now a captivating museum and home to the artists of the Arte Povera, are highlights.
Finally, another incredible pilgrimage site: Sacro Monte, Holy Mountains, in Varallo. A series of gruesome chapels on top of a mountain full of waxworks enacting scenes like the Massacre of the Innocents.

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