By DANA PALAMARA and TRISHA THOMAS, Associated Press
POLIGNANO A MARE, Italy (AP) — With sunglasses and spike heels, makeup artists and wardrobe experts, the American soap opera "The Bold and the Beautiful" has landed in Italy.
The cast and production team are in Puglia — the heel of Italy's famous boot — for a week of filming in hopes of boosting their show at home and nurturing their Italian fans.
"The Bold and the Beautiful" is seen by 35 million people in over 100 countries, according to its press office, and Italy is its No. 1 market worldwide. Known here simply as "Beautiful," the show has 4 million viewers in Italy compared to 3.6 million in the United States.
The program's male lead, Ronn Moss who plays Ridge, is also widely recognized from Italy's version of "Dancing with the Stars."
According to Brad Bell, the show's executive producer, the fictional reason why the soap finds itself in Italy is because Ridge's wife Brooke (Katherine Kelly Lang) was looking for a place her daughter Hope (Kim Matula) could escape to because she was being hounded by the press in Beverly Hills.
The real reason for the trip is the fans.
"Italy has been good to us, we want to give exposure to Italy and do business with a country so close so our hearts," said Bell.
The pace is manic: "The Bold and the Beautiful" shoots 250 episodes a year and is trying to do 10 episodes in five days during its time in Italy.
The soap's most important scene is the wedding between Hope and Liam (Scott Clifton). It is being shot in the stunning seaside village of Polignano A Mare, which is perched on rocky cliffs that plunge down to the crystal-clear Adriatic Sea.
Hundreds of locals gathered Tuesday to catch a glimpse of their favorite stars and get an autograph or a photo, and the actors were happy to oblige.
"Italy is always very receptive to us. They are always very welcoming, very passionate about the show, so it makes it much more fun," Moss said.
Lang, wearing an emerald green dress for the wedding scene, posed with eager fans.
"She is much more beautiful in person than on TV," declared Mimmo Scatigno, a fan who had his photo taken with her.
For the wedding scene, Matula wore an elegant ivory wedding dress designed by Vera Wang with tiny buttons running down the back and sported a Grace Kelly-like hairdo.
In a nod to Italy's car industry, its famed three-wheeled mini scooter-car, the APE, plays a key role in the scenes. The car was first built by Piaggio in 1948 and was common in the postwar period when people couldn't afford a larger four-wheel vehicle. It is still popular today.
The soap opera is also using the song "Volare" in a nod to Italian singer-songwriter Domenico Modugno, whose statue stands at the center of the piazza where the wedding procession was being shot. According to producers, the song represents how Hope is flying high with happiness at her wedding.
Locals also appreciated that "The Bold and the Beautiful" was giving a mini-boost to a region of Italy that is struggling economically. The show has brought in 16 crew members from the U.S., plus six actors, two publicists and the executive producer. They have also hired a 42-person film crew from a local company, as well as using local drivers and hotels.
It's not the first time "The Bold and the Beautiful" has filmed on location in Italy. The show came to Lake Como in 1997, to Venice in 1999 and to Portofino in 2002.
The soap opera celebrated its 25th anniversary in March.
Palamara reported from London.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.