Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Monster of Florence

Hannibal the Cannibal


Thomas Harris
Thomas Harris

One of the visitors to Florence during the 1992 trial of Pietro Pacciani was novelist Thomas Harris, whose bestseller spawned the Oscar-winning movie Silence of the Lambs.  He became so inspired after attending the trial that he decided to locate his third novel, Hannibal, in Florence.

In the sequel, Anthony Hopkins portrays the cannibalistic psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter and Julianne Moore as FBI agent Clarice Starling.  In 2000, Ridley Scott, the films director who had been given an $80 million budget by MGM-Universal Pictures, he decided to film many of the movies scenes on location in Florence and obtained the proper permits from the city. 

Anthony Hopkins in Hannibal (AP)
Anthony Hopkins in
Hannibal (AP)

Two political groups demanded that a gruesome murder scene being filmed inside the ornate Salon of the Lilies in the city's Palazzo Vecchio be stopped.  The scene was a partial re-enactment of a killing which actually took place there in 1478.

Photo: Skyline of Florence

Many politicians felt that Florence's reputation had been sullied enough by the Monster of Florence murders and were upset that their city was now being used as the setting for a cannibalistic serial killer film.  In an open letter to Mayor Leonardo Domenici, the two parties begged him to retract authorization for the three-day shooting, "This will add nothing to Florence's prestige in the world," they wrote. "We believe instead that the most intimate location in the city would become the setting for morbid thrills and vulgar horror."  Investigators were also concerned that increased publicity might prompt the killer to become more active, or even worse, encourage copycats to imitate his crimes.

Skyline of Florence, Italy (AP)
Skyline of Florence, Italy (AP)

Regardless of their objections, filming was only temporarily delayed and Hannibal was able to reinvent himself as the Dante-quoting custodian of the Capponi library, after brutally creating a vacancy.