Ezio Auditore climbs on Brunelleschi’s dome in Florence, lurks around Piazza San Marco in Venice, through the Imperial Forums in Rome, and amongst the streets in San Gimignano and Forlì, and observes a Renaissance Italy that has been reconstructed in great detail, albeit with a bit of poetic licence.
He is the hooded hero of Assassin’s Creed, the internationally-successful video game that since 2009 has let fans fulfil their missions in marvellous historic locations.
These settings have fascinated thousands of fans and transformed the series into the symbol of videogame tourism, which takes players from game consoles into the real world.
The imagination of designers, interactivity, the precision of the graphics and pronounced ethnical and historical sensitivity make video games a fantastic tool to tell the story of a location.
A trip through digital Italy can start from the snowcapped peaks of the Ortlers, Mount Cevedale and the Matterhorn, the stars of Steep, the extreme winter sport challenge that leaves users great freedom to explore the spectacular scenery.
The mountains have been drawn and written about: Anna, the noir graphic adventure set in an abandoned sawmill in the Val D’Ayas (Aosta) offers a cross-section of South Tyrol folklore.
The Falzarego Pass is the set of Avanti Savoia, a chapter of the First World War saga, Battlefield 1. It is a faithful reproduction, apart from the fact that a few things have been moved: the battle that is being represented is actually Monte Grappa, a few kilometres away.
Still in Northern Italy, Venice immediately brings to mind the legendary Tomb Raider and, if anyone finds the star shape of the planet Sera in Gears of War 4, familiar, that is because it is a futuristic version of the ideal city of Palmanova (Udine).
There are also a lot of itineraries that have been explored by car games: the spires of Milan Cathedral see racing cars flash by in Race Driver: Grid, while Forza Horizon 2 takes drivers from Genoa to Nice, driving in land through Liguria.
The province of Imperia with the heights of Sanremo and Taggia is the background to Sebastien Loeb Rally Evo; whereas Gran Turismo, travels down the Italian peninsula, meaning you can compete in various iconic locations such as Assisi, Capri, Piazza Venezia in Rome and the Piazza del Campo in Siena.
In Central Italy, the place that has benefitted more than any other from the Assassin’s Creed effect is Monteriggioni (Siena), one of the main locations of the saga, with thematic tours along its perfectly preserved medieval walls. Not far away, in Volterra, The Town of Light brings back to life the city’s former psychiatric hospital.
In Lazio, Rome is of course a leading player in games with historic settings, from the gladiators in Ryse: Son of Rome to the architecture from the city-building series Caesar, up to XX-La Breccia which celebrates the Risorgimento.
The Second World War has also been extensively explored by video games, and in these parts they especially concentrate on the battles of Anzio and Cassino with the bombing of the Abbey: that is the case with Medal of Honor, Battlefield 1942: Road to Rome, Day of Defeat, Call of Duty WWII and Sniper Elite 4).
Further south, the outline of the Amalfi coast is the setting for the explorations carried out by the archaeologist Nathan Drake in Uncharted 4, while Salerno and Sicily appear in the war-themed games mentioned above and in a flashback of the gangster game Mafia II.
There are some inaccuracies and some stereotyping, but also all the beauty of Italy. Talking about it is child’s play (and not just for children…) with the help of the new communications media.
Taormina in winter
Skiing on Etna while admiring the sea, or enjoying an aperitif amongst the volcanic craters. The Sicilian city is an unmissable destination, even out of season
Zerocalcare at MAXXI in Rome
Rome’s temple of contemporary art houses the comic artist’s first personal show. With autobiographical comics, collective projects and a site-specific drawing.