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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Visions of Italy
Visions of Italy
Acorn Media // Unrated // February 22, 2005
List Price: $39.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Matthew Millheiser | posted January 18, 2005 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
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The Program

Il Belpaese - The Beautiful Country. Your humble reviewer will never forget his first (and, as of this writing, his only) visit to Italy in the summer of 2003. I had just spent two weeks in the Czech Republic (an absolutely stellar place to visit, but that's another conversation entirely) and with a few days to kill, decided to zip over to Florence as fulfillment of a lifelong dream. You see, my senior year of college had been taken up with the study of both Renaissance Art and Renaissance Literature, and my mind and imagination had been overflowing with the majestic words of Boccaccio's Decameron and Dante's epic La divina commedia as well as the grand artistic endeavors of Botticelli, Michelango, da Vinci, and the rest of the Ninja turtles. Eleven years after graduation, there I was standing in the Botticelli room of the Uffizi, the heart of Florence's repository of timeless masterworks, as if I stood at the very gates of Paradise itself. Words cannot even begin to describe the effect of standing before "The Birth of Venus" and "Primavera". Heck, I never understood the big deal about Michelangelo's "David", until I waltzed over to the Galleria dell'Accademia and saw him for myself. Mind-blowing doesn't even begin to describe it. And if you even think of snapping a picture of old Davey they'll certainly cut your ears off just for the effort. Be warned.

I didn't spend a lot of time in Florence, barely four days at best, but it left a lasting impression. Italy opened up itself to me as a land of turmoil, passion, history, and empire. But most of all, Italy radiated with warmth. I never truly "got" Fellini until I stepped off the plane in Rome and spotted what could have been the most curvaceously dark and sexy woman I'd ever seen working the counter at a coffee stand. 8 1/2 suddenly made a lot more sense. But anyway, my blatantly sexist comments aside, my recollections of Italy were filtered entirely through my experience in Florence , which is a rather askew way to envision an entire country.

A fairly decent panacea to that limited exposure is Acorn Media's Visions of Italy, a two-disc set which, for the most part, acts as little more than a video travelogue for some of the most scenic panoramic views of the country. Originally broadcast on Public Television, the program is divided into three parts. The first, entitled Northern Style, focuses entirely on the northern part of the country. It starts in the Italian Alps and works it way around the north, delivering aerial photography of Bellagio, Portofino, Pisa, Florence, Verona, Venice and all points in between. The next program, Southern Style, features southern Italy at its finest, exploring vistas of Naples, Pompeii, the Isle of Capri, Villa San Giovanni, and various other exotic and exciting locales. Disc two is entitled Visions of Sicily, showcasing that elusive island that is part of Italy and is yet a separate area entirely. The program explores Messina, Palermo, Marsala, Ragusa, Taormina , and other locales throughout the island.

The footage was shot entirely from helicopters, thus providing a host of aerial footage which is mouth-wateringly appealing. To put it succinctly: if you've ever wanted to embark on a comprehensive bird's-eye view of Italy , Visions of Italy is the tall cup of water you've been thirsting for.

The DVD

Video:

Visions of Italy is presented in a widescreen full frame aspect ratio of 1.78:1, and has been anamorphically enhanced for your widescreen-viewing enjoyment. The program was shot on what appears to be high-definition digital video, and generally looks good. Colors, as expected, are lush and rich, demonstrating deep contrasts and solid blacks while bursting with vibrancy. Image detail is not quite as sharp as to be expected, with some noticeable line noise, jaggies and shimmering, but the picture never looks soft. Edge enhancement is also a bit pesky, but compression noise is blissfully minimal. Despite the minor flaws, this is a nice transfer.

Audio:

The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0. Volume levels are strong, with fine range to the authentic Italian score and bright, clear dialog levels. As an aside, the narrator has one hell of a sexy accent, and it comes across with richness and alluring come-hitherness that could sell ice cubes to Eskimos. Overall, the audio is satisfactory for the presentation.

Extras:

The extras include over an hour of bonus footage, spread across both discs. The footage is simply more of the same: aerial photography of the various Italian landscapes, only this time without narration.

Final Thoughts:

Together, the three programs run about four hours in length when you include the bonus footage, making it a pretty exciting and exhaustive package. That having been said, the feature is, for the most part, a travel video, albeit a well-put-together one at that. Sometimes the footage seems to be a little repetitive, but it never gets dull or uninteresting. Your mileage may vary on how much excitement you might derive out of this package, but if you've ever dreamt of having the best possible view of Italy 's majestic scenery Visions of Italy just might be your cup of tea.

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