Taormina, the magical setting for The Big Blue

Discovering the unique locations of Luc Besson's film

26 Jul 2021

The undeniable charm of Taormina ensured that when cinema became the seventh art, the enchanting Sicilian town would often be the setting for exciting films.
From the views across the sea to the panorama of a smoking Etna, from the South of Italy's typical alleys to the majestic Teatro Antico, plenty of cinema and TV crews have attempted to capture its beauty. 
But now we want to look back on a captivating, dreamlike film featuring many scenes shot in Taormina, in which, in spite of the grand names of the actors, the real star of the show is the Sea. So, where better than this Sicilian backdrop to make the sea the real king of the film?

The Big Blue tells the tale of the great friendship and sporting rivalry between two world champion free divers, Jacques Mayol and Enzo Maiorca, played by Jean-Marc Barr and Jean Reno. But most of all it is a story of visceral passion for the depths of the sea and an irrepressible attraction for the Big Blue. The Deep Blue. With its near-fantastical creatures, dolphins and mermaids; its muffled silence, its slow, glutinous movements. 
The film's plot shifts quickly between Peru and Greece, and between Taormina and the French Riviera.
Le Grand Bleu, Luc Besson's 1988 film, opened the Cannes Film Festival in the same year and was a huge success in France, where an extended version was released ten years later. However in Italy the film only came out in 2002 after a lawsuit for defamation brought by Enzo Maiorca's was dropped: he objected to the film's portrayal of him as the character Enzo Molinari, an Italian free diver played by Jean Reno.
Many scenes were shot in Taormina: from the train station to the old town centre, as well as the location that is the setting for what are the film's funniest and most moving moments at the same time.

We are at the restaurant Le Grand Bleu at UNAHOTELS Capotaormina, an extraordinary place for the views it affords, looking out across the bay of Giardini Naxos, with the majestic volcano close by; for the special jetty that provides access to the restaurant directly from the sea; and, last but not least, the typically Sicilian mouthwatering menu by UNA cucina. 

Having lunch or dinner at Le Grand Bleu is like sitting in the stalls of a wonderful open-air theatre, where the show on stage whatever the time of day or night is the Immensity of the Sea. And this is precisely why there could be no better location for a film whose real star is the Sea.

The scene with the two champions and Jacques Mayol's young American sweetheart while they eat the famous “spaghetti del mare” is funny; and the night-time scene - with an elegant Jean Reno playing the piano by the pool overlooking the sea - is glamorous yet melancholic at the same time; and finally there's the moving scene of the film's stars as two great friends sitting at a table at sunset.

If you want to revisit the film's famous scenes and tickle your taste buds with the very best Sicilian seafood at the same time, call in at UNAHOTELS Capotaormina's Le Grand Bleu restaurant, open to hotel guests and non-residents from May to October for lunch and from June to September for dinner.