The film: a feel-good musical with a soundtrack of 1980s hits set in a beautiful Mediterranean location with a plot centred around a wedding – it’s not difficult to see why Walking on Sunshine is being touted as this year’s Mamma Mia!
Taylor (Hannah Arterton) flies to Italy to discover that her sister Maddie (Annabel Scholey) is planning to marry Raf (Giulio Berruti), the Italian with whom Taylor had a holiday romance three years earlier. The plot may be flimsy but the summery playlist (courtesy of Madonna, Wham!, Cyndi Lauper, the Human League and Katrina and the Waves) and sun-kissed Italian landscapes will make this a film to file under “guilty pleasures”.
On location: the Italian tourist authorities are no doubt hoping this film will do for southern Italy what Mamma Mia! did for the Greek island of Skopelos. Most of the action was shot in the Salento region of Puglia, the heel of the Italian boot, famed for its baroque cities, distinctive conical stone houses, known as trulli, and white-sand beaches.
The jewel in the baroque crown of Puglia is Lecce, whose expansive Piazza del Duomo and narrow limestone streets appear in several key scenes. The medieval town of Nardò is the backdrop to a messy and exuberant tomato festival sequence (loosely modelled on Spain’s Tomatina festival) and the baroque churches and crumbling palazzi of atmospheric Presicce also get a cameo role.
The real scene-stealer, though, is Lido Coco Loco (lidococoloco.it) at Torre San Giovanni, a gorgeous expanse of soft sand wedged between the turquoise Ionian Sea and its pine-fringed dunes. The distinctive thatched palm leaf sunshades and blue-and-white sun loungers of the beach club feature as a backdrop to the film’s big set-piece rendition of Whitney Houston’s “How Will I Know”.
Film-goers will be treated to further glimpses of the Salentine coastline when the main characters take an exhilarating Vespa ride along the coast road between Santa Caterina and Santa Maria al Bagno, a beautiful seaside town popular with holidaymakers from northern Italy. The film’s finale, a will-they-or-won’t-they wedding scene, was shot inside and outside the beautiful churches of Sant’ Antonio and Santa Teresa in Nardò.
Where to stay: As well as the curious trulli houses, Puglia is famed for its masserie, rambling fortified farmhouses surrounded by sturdy walls that sit among the olive and almond groves. Many have been converted into attractive hotels or private villas. The beautiful swimming pool and sun terrace that appears throughout the film can be found at the Masseria Acquadolce in Taurisano (sleeps 16, prices from €10,000 to €20,000 per week, italianstylevillas.com). Think Puglia has a collection of beautifully restored masserie and trulli complexes. A week at the stone-built Masseria Curti Vecchi, sleeping eight, costs from €6,410 per week (thethinkingtraveller.com/thinkpuglia).
‘Walking on Sunshine’ is on release in the UK