The genius of a place

THE GENIUS OF A PLACE is a feature length film now in production that tells the story of a community suddenly thrust “on the map” as a touristic destination. The film is set in and stars Cortona. It shows the town’s residents and visitors as they discover in real time how complex it is to promote economic growth while also trying conserve the “genius” of this stunning place.


The genious of a place

Through the story of a single community, this film examines a theme pertinent to places of beauty around the world. The Genius of a Place takes a look at the experience of Cortona, a town with Etruscan origins thus nearly 3000 years old, that in the last decade has become a touristic hotspot. Starting from the second half of the 1990s, Cortona became suddenly famous thanks to the publication in 1996 of “Under the Tuscan Sun”, an international best seller which subsequently was translated into 33 languages and also became a Hollywood movie. The book together with the movie provided Cortona with an unimaginable amount of visibility, especially among English-speaking audiences. Of course, Cortona has been beloved by tourists for decades -- if not centuries!-- but without the power of today’s media it is difficult to imagine that this town with 1600 inhabitants in its historic center would receive 400,000 visitors a year, as it does today.


The film’s creative team is using Cortona as a symbol for exploring many dilemmas linked to the modern way of life. Today society seeks modernization yet on the other hand often regrets the passing of aspects of life “the way it used to be”. Economic growth is sought, yet one is often saddened to see the community become commercialized and lose its traditional social fabric. All communities, whether large or small, seem to struggle with these tensions between development and conservation.


In the last half century, mankind has become far more powerful than in the past; thanks to a breathtaking growth in mechanization, man can reach and change places with a speed unthinkable in past eras. Together with this new power comes heightened responsibility. If we don’t act in a wise way, man’s inventiveness risks devouring places of beauty. That would be short-sighted and detrimental in so many ways, including to the places’ economies.

The film encourages viewers to reflect on the fragility of places and our responsibility to protect the beauty of wherever we find ourselves, either as residents or visitors. To know more or to contribute to this donor-supported film, visit