GLOBE TREKKER ITALY
Review by Ed Nguyen
Megan McCormick, Justine Shapiro
Directors: Finn McGough, Steve Lenhoff
Audio: English Dolby Stereo
Video: Color, full-frame
Studio: 555 (Pilot) Productions
Features: "Around the World" tour, fun facts
Length: 101 minutes
Release Date: July 26, 2002
spelled backwards means love."
television show Globe Trekker has been
hopping around the world for over a decade. Originally entitled Lonely
Planet, then Pilot Guides, this
popular international show was a regular feature on cable television programming
(the Travel, Learning, and Discovery Channels) before migrating to PBS stations
in 2002 and assuming its current moniker. Throughout
its varying cosmetic changes, the premise of the show has always remained a
simple but engrossing one - each week, one friendly host would journey across
the featured country (or city) and take audiences on a tour of fascinating
cultural sites and celebrations. What
has separated Globe Trekker from most other travel programs is the humor and
down-to-earth friendliness of its hosts. Viewers
can vicariously experience foreign countries on a personal level rather than
through a virtual slideshow of pretty pictures with a passive host (although the
landscapes and sceneries shown in Globe Trekker are admittedly outstanding and frequently worthy of National
Geographic). Each episode of
the show also routinely offers many candid encounters and anecdotes from other
tourists about their own experiences. Better
yet, Globe Trekker is not afraid to
wander off the beaten path away from the usual tourist traps to intimately
explore the true nature of these nations' people, culture, and even cuisine.
the move to public television, the show also began to arrive on DVD.
This disc, Globe Trekker: Italy, presents two popular episodes of the show
featuring hostesses Megan McCormick and Justine Shapiro as they respectively
tour the northern and southern regions of Italy.
McCormick is probably the most popular of the regular Globe Trekker hosts. A
perky and cheerful chatter, Megan tends to provide bubbly commentary about the
people and places she encounters on her journeys. The first segment of Globe
Trekker: Italy, from 2001, features Megan on a trek that begins in Aosta and
traverses through Alba, Milan, Parma, Modena, Mantua Verona, and Cortina and the
Dolomite Mountains before closing in Venice, the gateway to the Orient.
of these towns have rich histories and still retain much of their medieval
flavor. Aosta, for instance, is a
former Roman town with proximity to seventy different castles.
Ivrea features a three-day Carnival of Orange-Tossing which commemorates
a 12th-century revolt by the townspeople over their oppressive noble rulers; the
revolt is represented through a symbolic pelting of brave (and armored)
volunteers with thousands of imported Sicilian oranges.
cuisine, as found in local pubs, bars, and restaurants, is a staple of many Globe
Trekker episodes. For Italian
culinary experts, there is a journey to Alba, where Megan participates in the
traditional wintry search for truffle, that rarest of mushroom delicacy (and
aphrodisiac). There is a journey to
Parma, too, where ham and cheese are the major exports.
Megan also visits a factory where the celebrated Parmaggiano Reggiano
cheese is created.
Next on the itinerary is a trip to the unofficial northern capital, Milan, the fashion cosmopolitan hub of Europe. Even the police wear Armani-designed outfits in this fashion-conscious city! Other sites of interest in the city include the world's largest gothic cathedral and the world-famous opera house La Scala.
aficionados will delight in Maranello, home to the Ferrari company and a Formula
One race track. Megan visits the
awesome Ferrari museum containing famous cars like the Spider, F40, and
Testarossa, and she even gets to spin around in a Ferrari on the race track
visit to the lakeside Mantua, with its great architecture, includes a tour of
what was once the largest palace in all of Europe, a wondrous chateau that still
boasts some extremely gorgeous frescos and wall carvings.
Shakespearean lovers, there is charming Verona, the city of love.
Visitors here can always visit the Casa di Giulietta, a tourist trap for
those on a pilgrimage to seek out the Juliet balcony.
enthusiasts can also check out Cortina and its local ski resorts.
Megan's visit here ends with a spectacular view of the coral peaks of the
we move on to southern Italy, as visited in the second Globe Trekker segment by Justine Shapiro. Another of the show's popular adventurers, Justine is also an
accomplished documentarian on her own right, having been nominated for an Oscar
for her documentary Promises (2001).
Justine's Globe Trekker segment begins in Rome, the Eternal City and gateway
to southern Italy. From there,
Justine travels through Terracina, Naples, Alberobello, Ostuni, and Acri before
finally reaching the tip of Italy's toe in Aspromonte.
Along the way, Justine offers historical trivia, useful tips on dealing
with the overly-flirtatious charming guides and men, and more practical advice
concerning the best methods of transportation around Italy (scooters in Rome or
the cheap and reliable train system outside) and how to arrange lodging in the
more out-of-the-way locales. But
while in Rome, Justine visits the usual tourist attractions - Coliseum, whose
80,000 seating capacity was once the stage for gory gladiator games (starting in
80 A.D.), and the Vatican City, an independent state within Rome since 1929.
the capital, however, Justine heads for the countryside and many seldom-visited
locales. Her first stop is the
fishing village of Terracina. There,
she witnesses the traditional Festival of the Madonna del Carmine honoring the
town's patron saint and the lives of those lost at sea.
She also comes face to face with the prophetic Old Man of Bonito,
actually a mummy purported to have mysterious healing powers.
sprawling city of Naples is next, where Justine takes us on a quick culinary
tour of the city's large food markets, multiple pizzerias, and many local
dishes. Her amusing Italian guide
also teaches her (and us) some useful, colloquial hand gestures.
No vacation to Naples would be complete without a visit to the nearby
ancient ruins of Pompeii. Justine
visits this famous town, destroyed by volcanic ashes on August 24, 79 A.D., to
marvel at the remarkably well-preserved frescos.
scooter trip along the picturesque Amalfi Coast takes Justine to Salerno and
later through the surreal, fairy-tale like architecture and homes of Alberobello.
A stop in Ostuni provides an opportunity to engage in the local sea
urchin-fishing (for the people of this region, the spiny sea creatures are
claimed to possess aphrodisiac-like properties).
After more culinary, homestyle cooking in Acri, Justine concludes her
journey through southern Italy among the rarely-seen but breathtaking wilderness
and waterfalls of Aspromonte. The
picturesque wonder of this scenic landscape is a testimony to the beauty of
rural Italy and a strong enticement for potential travelers to this
culturally-rich country to seek out some of the more remote locales for the true
flavor of Italy.
offers a pleasant sample of the captivating allure of this popular television
travelogue. Viewers who are
interested in the show can find it regularly on PBS stations or can sample any
of the several dozen other current Globe
Trekker DVDs available.
the images are generally clear with accurately rendered colors, Globe
Trekker's TV origins are obvious in the transfer.
The detail levels are moderate and can become mildly blurry or blocky on
close inspection. There are
occasional interlacing defects. On
average, the bit rate is around 4.5 Mbps. Since
Globe Trekker is essentially a travel show, the video quality
depends upon the various photographic media used and, overall, is acceptable.
presented in English Dolby Digital stereo.
The sound quality is fine, especially during interludes in which native
or regional music is played. Narration
is provided alternatively on-location as well as in voice-over.
"Around the World" tour (10 min.) promotes the various Globe
Trekker DVDs available at the time of this disc's release.
Although basically advertisements, the clips in this tour do offer
intriguing glimpses into the other international regions visited by the
enthusiastic Globe Trekker hosts.
disc also contains an optional winDVD player for DVD-ROM playback if viewers use
their computers to watch the programs.
travelogue would be complete without a few tips about the host country.
This disc includes several pages of "fun facts" describing
Italy's travel, historic sites, festivals, foods, and climate, including the
best times to arrive for the ski season. Further
information can be obtained via a provided weblink to www.pilotguides.com.