adventures italian style est

When Maurizio Paganelli and his two best friends took a road trip to communist Romania in 1989, mere weeks before the collapse of the Berlin Wall, they were searching for adventure. What they discovered was a love of a beautiful population living proudly in hard times. That experience is the basis of the new film Adventures Italian Style, which played at the Amelia Island Film Festival over the weekend.

The film, called Est in Europe, is a fictional account of Pago (Paganelli), Rice, and Bibi’s unique vacation, and is based on Paganelli’s book Addio Ceausescu. He based the book on his own experiences in Romania, three decades ago. Deftly moving between humor and heartfelt drama, the rowdy-yet-well-meaning trio are quickly stunned by the poverty and strict police control under dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu in Romania.

“We young people had everything,” Paganelli said about the eye-opening experience at a Q&A at the festival on Sunday. “For us it was unbelievable to look at that situation. It was difficult to find the bread or meat, restaurants are closed, and there’s no gasoline. When we come back and we spoke with our friends… they didn’t believe us.”

Paganelli’s motivation for writing the book was his own family.

“I have three children, two girls,” he said. “So, about five years ago, I decided to write this book for my children, because nobody in Italy knows this story of Europe. The young people don’t know what happened in Europe at the time with the Berlin Wall.”

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An avid film lover who attends all the major European film festivals, like Cannes and Venice, Paganelli ended up producing the film. Italian director Antonio Pisu adapts and directs.

Paganelli, Rice and Bibi still keep in touch. They even appear in a fun cameo in the film: at one point, the three old friends are seen sitting in a restaurant directly behind the actors playing their younger versions.

Main image: Rice, Bibi and Pago on an unconventional road trip in Adventures Italian Style.