Appellate Judge James A. Stewart thinks WLIW must be the world's mellowest TV station.
"There are so many different Italys available to us, it's not very difficult to find one to fall in love with."
WLIW, Long Island's public television station, has made a name for itself with its Visions series of travelogues (including Visions of Britain and Ireland, which I reviewed in Summer 2009). The series sets beautiful scenery to music and just enough informative narration for an educational feel. Essentially, though, the series is relaxation videos for stressed-out multitaskers.
WLIW varies the formula just a bit for Brava Italia, three hour-long visual essays on Italy that appeared on public television stations across the country. Promising to "discover the secrets of Italia," it expands on the visual travelogue theme, showing you how people live, work, and play along with the great buildings and natural wonders. Paul Sorvino narrates.
The three episodes, each just a hair shy of an hour long, play out as follows:
• "The Proud Tradition": The Coliseum, a sawmill at work, the making of a violin, and pasta dishes are in the mix. Director Francis Ford Coppola makes a appearance.
• "The Beautiful Life": Accordion making, City of Science, organic food preparation in Tuscany, terracing for wine growing, the renaissance city of Florence, and Italy's many art museums are featured.
• "The Eternal Country": Spas and fine dining, sports, flower petal mosaics at a festival, Venice, Pompeii, Tivoli Gardens, and a macabre street festival are seen.
Brava Italia covers more aspects of Italy than an episode of Visions would, but it doesn't go into much depth. Instead, it provides an overview and a video essay on Italian culture. It also provides a lot of the visual spectacle familiar to Visions viewers as it shows everything from the Alps to cities such as Rome, Florence, and Venice. Whether you're seeing a street festival or a water-powered sawmill in operation, everything has the soothing quality you expect.
The views are splendid, Paul Sorvino's narration, gently proud of his Italian heritage, was fresh enough to keep my interest, and subtitles on the screen were enough to tell me what I was seeing. The expanded focus gradually exerted itself to make Brava Italia a better-than-average visual travelogue. What I didn't like was the generic classical-ish score; livelier music would have matched the visuals better and given viewers a sense of place, making for a more intriguing spectacle. Unlike the Visions DVDs, there's no bonus footage here.
Still, Brava Italia is an excellent choice if you're looking for a relaxing travelogue that you could watch repeatedly when you need to chill, and it could whet your appetite for learning more or taking a trip to Italy. If you think you might like it, you should love it.
Not guilty. It's beautiful and tranquil, and could make you hungry, too, as it shows all those pasta dishes. What more could you ask for?
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