August 6, 2009

My House in Umbria (2003)

To answer your questions regarding where this movie was filmed, here is some information that I have managed to gather about the locations. For the exterior shots and sweeping views of the Umbrian countryside, the destinations used included Siena and San Casciano, two lovely Tuscan townships close to Florence. They also worked with Cinecittà Studios in Rome (and a couple of studios back in England). Lastly, the actual house used in the film does indeed exist in real-life! And it has a name! It's called the "Villa Arceno" and is also located in the Chianti-Sienese area. You can read more about it here on its own website!
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Perhaps most of you have seen or at least, heard of Under the Tuscan Sun (2003), the film starring Diane Lane whose American character moves to Italy for a fresh start after a heartbreaking divorce? And perhaps you saw that movie and marveled at the gorgeous Tuscan landscape and her charming, albeit dilapidated fixer-upper of an Italian villa? But how many of you have seen My House in Umbria, an HBO special feature with comparably breathtaking production design released in the same year?

My House in Umbria is a wonderful, gentle picture starring the legendary Maggie Smith as "Mrs. Emily Delahunty," a British expat living in Italy. On a trip to Rome, her train was bombed by terrorists and having survived the blast, Mrs. Delahunty decided to invite the other three survivors of her compartment to stay at her house during their recovery. These included a newly orphaned young American girl, an elderly British general (Ronnie Barker), and a young German man (portrayed by the delicious Benno Fürmann who has the most mesmerizing blue-gray eyes I've ever seen, especially in The Princess and the Warrior and The Order - but I digress).

They met on the train:

Mrs. Delahunty is a successful romance novelist so everything around her reflected this - her clothes, the way she decorated her house, and the style in which she entertained - that is, romantic, dramatic, and embellished.


Mrs. Delahunty's villa from afar:

driving up to the front door:

The house used as Mrs. Delahunty's villa actually does not exist in real life as you see it on the screen. The actual house had good bones but was rather stark so the production design team had to add a great deal to it - such as the creation of the interior courtyard, the gardens, and the back terrace. They also added the climbing ivy + wisteria and all the shrubbery/trees.


Another shot of the gorgeous main doors, flanked by light bluish-gray shutters. Love the orange trees next at the front entrance.

the interior courtyard:

Love the fountain in the interior courtyard and the little sitting area.

Love how they brought the outdoors in. For example, notice how they incorporated beautiful potted trees inside the house/behind the doors.


The Kitchen:

Beautiful Tuscan tile:

Love the large wooden table/island at the center of the kitchen:


One of the bedrooms. Love the romantic brass headboard.

Headboard upholstered in a beige paisley print.

This is the bedroom occupied by the little girl. Her drawings on the wall are cute, even though they're actually kind of scary and traumatizing.

Totally in love with this headboard. Just look at the fine detail and the subtle colors against the dark veneer. And I think there's also a bit of pearl inlay!

The gorgeous indoor dining room. Love the large mural behind Mrs. Delahunty. And the candlelit lily centerpieces.

A bathroom. Not sure if this is actually a bathroom in her house. It might be in a hotel because they took a couple of day trips too. Love how the bathroom is large enough to encompass a vanity, seating area, and lots of drawers and side tables. You can spend a whole day in this one room!

One of the sitting rooms inside her house:

Tapestry on the wall and some strange but beautiful shimmery hanging fixture (right).

Another sitting room. Gorgeous sunny and happy yellows. Pitchers of orange juice. Sunflowers in the back. A part of a broken stone something hanging on the wall.

Her desk, where she types all her romance stories.

Another room. Unpretentious paperback books + old records + retro record player.

This is my absolute favorite part of the garden - an extended stone arcade/arbor shaded by hanging wisteria. Truly breathtaking. Mrs. Delahunty liked to dine outside most of the time and many meals were had under this arbor:

At night, it's lit up with countless candles in glass lanterns.

Magical atmosphere!

Because most of the activities take place in and around the house, the filmmakers had to create different areas of interest, to break up the otherwise static environment. They successfully accomplished this by creating varying niches, such as this small seating area next to the stone fence. Notice also the stone relief of a woman with her two children carved into the wall of the fence. Small details such as this go a long way to emphasize the nurturing and healing environment Mrs. Delahunty is providing to her ailing guests.

Stone bench tucked away among the flowering shrubbery:

Here's another area where they took meals - on the second floor balcony. Follow your eye up the ladder.

Breakfast on the balcony:

Another example of how they divided up the environment is the creation of a back terrace that sits over the lower gardens. To understand this, pretend you're Mrs. Delahunty, looking down from your second story window balcony:

The first level you see is the "back terrace."

This back terrace is directly at the other end of the interior courtyard, almost straight across from the front entrance. In other words, you enter the house, walk through the inner courtyard, and come out to this area:

The back terrace is paved in stone, much like a back patio would be. The "fence" overlooking the rest of the lower gardens is partially constructed out of sticks+vines:

A closer view of the seating area.

Here's a shot of the lower gardens I was talking about. In this image, not much has been planted yet. They've just started laying it out. The creation of the lower garden was part of the characters' healing process so you see the area transform from a small patch of dirt into a beautiful, luscious oasis.

Here's the end result of their labor - a gorgeous English garden full of sunflowers, hollyhocks, foxgloves, mums, poppies, etc.

Magnificent light pink climbing roses on the stone wall:

My House in Umbria is a really sweet movie and worth seeing for the house + gardens alone.


I've seen this movie, and really enjoyed it. It was very moving; the deliberate pace was a good contrast to the train travel and explosion.

for me this is the best movie i have never seen , the subject wa very interesting .

Thanks for the tour. I think I enjoyed it more than the movie itself. I love the movie, but I'm after the beautiful scenes. Oh and I love Under the Tuscan Sun too :)

Thanks so much for publishing these wonderful pictures of the house used in the film. Do you know where it actually was?? I've been trying to find out its actual location.

Many thanks...

@Anonymous - Please see my update at the top of the post. :)

Villa Arceno doesn't look like the villa in the movies at all! Any more info? :)

Correction!!,,,,to whomsoever wrote this article,,,,!!! Mrs Delahunty was on a Shopping Trip to Milan and NOT Rome,,,,!!! Mrs Delahunty (Maggie Smith) states this quite clearly in her narrative as she is walking down the corridor on the train in search of her compartment,,,,!!! If this basic piece of information is wrong, then what chance for accuracy in the rest of the piece,,,,???

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