The film is a sort of homage to the silent movies, like those made by Georges Méliès. So we wanted to find places that looked believable but could almost have been built in the studio. The Gole dell’Alcantara in Sicily – where the king in one of the stories goes into the water to fight a sea monster – was one of these places. We liked it because it was real but could have been created by the set designer.

In Italy, we have many wonderful castles. My location manager spent eight months travelling from the north to the south to find the most amazing ones to use as locations for Tale of Tales.

Matteo Garrone

The plot is made up of three stories and for The Flea, it was important to find an isolated castle, to emphasise the loneliness of the princess whom the king is trying to marry off, so we chose Castel Del Monte in Puglia – an octagonal fortress on a hill and surrounded by little else. For The Two Old Women (about a sex addict king and two sisters, one of whom he courts), we needed a place with the castle above the little town where the two old ladies live. We chose Caetani castle, which looms above the town of Sermoneta in Lazio.

Garrone on set shooting Tale of Tales

The locations themselves are characters, in a way. They give insight into the people and the conflicts of the movie – and sometimes they inspired ideas that became part of the script. When I saw the maze at Donnafugata Castle, a palatial 14th-century castle in Sicily, I felt it was very important to use it in a scene in The Queen – one that was central to the drama. This is how the idea came to have the queen chasing her son in the maze, who then escapes with his doppelganger.

My favourite location was the Gole dell’Alcantara, on our first day of filming, I remember being really surprised by the atmosphere there. It was completely wild and very magic in a way.

Tale of Tales film still

In Italy, there are a lot of places that have been abandoned – but that makes them more interesting. Sometimes they are much more beautiful because they’ve been left just as they were centuries ago.

It was incredible to be on the top of the Castel del Monte in Puglia. It’s one of the most famous castles in the world and I used it for the scene of the fight between the king and the princess. We didn’t have any safety measures and she was running across the top, trying to jump down. It was the most difficult and dangerous scene to shoot.

Castel del Monte

When I first went to see the Bosco del Sasseto, in Lazio, I was completely bowled over by its beauty. It’s an ancient forest with moss-covered boulders below the Castello di Torre Alfina. When you are inside, the atmosphere is unbelievable and it’s a place that few people visit. That’s the beauty of Italy; in another country, these woods and park would already have gadgets and places to buy souvenirs, but here you can just go and look around. No one will bother you.

Shooting the film really brought home to me how many beautiful places there are in Italy – some of which are hidden away. This can be a good thing as it protects them from companies and individuals who want to set up businesses. It’s so rich, our country, you will always be surprised by something.

The Alcantara river, Gole dell’Alcantara, Sicily

I’m not a very good traveller but I really like the south of Italy. I’ve spent three or four summers in Salento, close to Gallipoli; it’s a wonderful place, still not too touristy or full of hotels being built. It’s still pure.

I could live in Capo Miseno one day. It’s near Naples, it’s very old and next to the sea, a magic place.

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