In this instalment of My Star Wars Moment Linda Scott Pellerito shares with us some of her experiences of her visit to Naboo in May 2006. If you enjoy interacting with other Star Wars fans on the Facebook walls like those of the Prequel Appreciation Society or the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy you may have already met her. But let me not delay handing her the word.
“It was a cold and rainy night…actually it was an incredible 4-day visit to the Lake Retreat – the Villa Balbianello. Anticipation was never so sweet, well, except awaiting C3 and the premiere of Revenge of the Sith. The dream began when I discovered that there was a real location from Attack of the Clones, that this was no blue screen.
I began my research in late 2002 and just kept revisiting the FAI site attaching photos in emails to my daughter, Angie, who is a super traveler – down to the last Metro, she can get us everywhere in Europe – that and her fluent French. Four years later we are there! With just one backpack each we arrived in Paris for a few days, where we discovered the French Star Wars Exhibit was still going on so we hopped another Metro to the extreme east side of the city where we saw the full-sized Naboo Starfighter (a favorite ship of mine), a few of Padme Amidala’s TPM costumes (the Battle for Naboo and the ending Celebration scene). Of course this wasn’t nearly as extensive as the “Dressing a Galaxy” exhibit but there was interactive fun: you could put yourself into Return of the Jedi as Jabba’s barge explodes. The next day we continued our journey to Mont St Michel, then caught the train down to the Cote d’Azure, including Cannes where we stood in the exact place on the red carpet George, Rick, Hayden, Natalie, Samuel, Anthon and Ian were one year before for the premiere of Revenge of the Sith.
Venice was no longer an option due to the Italians and French also being on holiday so I nervously agreed to Angie’s exciting alternative-to head back up north to Interlaken and parasailing in the Alps! Breathtaking in so many ways. Immediately after the parasailing, we boarded a train to the city of Como, which took the entire afternoon/ evening to reach. Incredibly Sound of Music scenic en route. Saving the best for last we arrived in the city of Como too late for the last bus to Lenno so after a very expensive cab ride, and trying to see the lake in the dark and again, anticipating, we arrived at our hotel, which turned out to be the very same one the crew from AOTC had stayed.
We were immediately greeted with news that our guide, Gigliola Foglia, called to make arrangements for early next morning – our first tour of the Villa. I had found the contact information to Gigliola in early 2003 after discovering her on The Padawan’s Guide website, then saved it for 3 years more and was stoked that she was indeed still doing Star Wars Tours of Lake Como. Gigliola arrived promptly at 9:00 a.m. with a Padawan braid in her hair! How cool and the first indication that she indeed knows her Star Wars plus she was on the set when they filmed in 2000. First we went to the picnic site – and Angie said jokingly, “We traveled across the Atlantic to photograph grass?” “Ahh, but it’s THIS grass!” was voiced by Gigliola and me almost simultaneously. Gigliola said she hadn’t seen the costumes at all and was overwhelmed when Natalie stepped out from the changing area in the incredible Picnic Gown…Trisha Biggar, who was also present, appreciated Gigliola’s reaction: just stunned at the beautiful combination of the perfect girl in the perfect dress filming the perfect saga. We stomped through the long grass and Gigliola was reminded that George had requested the farmer who owns the site to let the grass grow very long for the filming – actually Gigliola was full of little tidbits from the filming – just enjoyed her so much.
Next we were on to the steps featured in the cut scene of leaving for Tatooine – Padme is in the cloak/hood she will wear on that dry planet and Anakin is assisting the pilot of the small gondola. Natalie was not feeling terrific as she had gone for a swim in the lake and developed a severe ear infection, delaying filming (they were scheduled for only a 4-day shoot) making George “grumpy”. Gigliola also said Natalie refused to change into Trisha’s beautiful costumes in the public toilet/restroom – Gigliola said she was correct in that refusal as it was not a pleasant place to be in the hot days of late summer, so arrangements were made to open a small, interesting building close to the water’s edge. We climbed back into Gigliola’s car (yes, she even picked us up at the hotel and chauffeured us around the Star Wars sites) we were at last off to the Villa.
Gigliola had previously arranged boat transport to the amazing, wonderful, beautiful Villa Balbianello. From the second we rounded the bend that had blocked the site from our hotel, I was covered in goose bumps and near tears – it was just incredible and as magical as I had hoped. And once we docked, almost instinctively, I made a beeline to the wedding site – and took about a dozen photos before I could even consider going anywhere else. There it was – the crook in that branch that marks the exact spot. Gigliola also pointed out that within the balustrade/fencing the original owner had placed a design that is repeated around the perimeter of the side of the Villathat faces the lake – George was originally going to digitally remove it but decided that it actually looks like a heart with an “A” and a “P” in there – do you see it? Next in importance (to me, anyway) was the awakening from the nightmare/decision to leave Naboo scene. This was filmed in the loggia the forever now associated with AOTC tri-arched loggia…..and of course I had to do the hands clasped behind the back ala Anakin/Vader pose. We had also paid to see the interior of the Villa – very little related to AOTC but we did see the window Padme looks through to see Anakin and her father talking and also the room that served as Padme’s bedroom. Gigliola mentioned that when she showed up for one of the days of filming in a purple dress, George seemed upset – evidently there’s a superstition surrounding the color purple – it’s considered unlucky during a shoot. Another little piece of info Gigliola shared: the holy man who marries Anakin and Padme is actually a local dentist! He just had the right look for George. After over two hours at the Villa, Gigliola had to leave for a college graduation – we said goodbye knowing that I would be emailing her when I returned home. Angie and I stayed for nearly four hours longer – I just didn’t want to leave. It was the perfect day to be there – overcast, sort of haunting……think of the way the balcony/loggia scene looked with rain on the ground, etc. The next day the Villa was closed, however I convinced Angie that I just had to return again, so on Thursday, back we went….but it was a sunny day and even though Padme and Anakin’s first scene at the Lake Retreat was also a sunny day, I preferred the mystical look of our earlier visit with misty clouds covering the entire sky in variations of dark grays.
I repeated the same journey I had previously taken but this time I took a couple of mini-videos of the wedding site with my digital camera (try to send) – since I was at the end of the journey I no longer feared running out of storage or batteries.
Alas we had to eventually leave – we had only this last night at the hotel then we had to return to the city of Como for an early morning train connecting with a flight back to reality. We chose the water way, slower but it gave me time to say goodbye…it seemed appropriate, recalling Padme’s final journey. I’ll remember this wonderful trip forever and there’s nothing like wanting something so badly, anticipating it for years and having the experience reward you with just what you wanted……not even a second of disappointment. It was all there. A rainbow appeared during the filming of the wedding scene. It had rained incessantly the day before and was still raining that morning. And then…magic!! This dream will not fade in time.”