As the serial adaptation of Sally Rooney's novel Normal People hits screens and wins rave reviews, you can dive into the fictional world of Marianne and Connell with these real-life filming locations in Ireland and Italy.
Normal People, the follow-up to Rooney's debut novel Conversations with Friends, was arguably the book of 2018. Critics loved it, celebrities from Emily Ratajkowski to Lena Dunham endorsed it and reading it became a sort of pop culture status symbol among millennials. Now the best-selling novel, longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, has been turned into a 12-part drama series for the BBC and Hulu, with Oscar-nominated directors Lenny Abrahamson and Hettie McDonald behind the lens.
The book follows the relationship and dysfunctional power dynamics between students Marianne and Connell, who attend the same high school in a small town in the west of Ireland. They're separated by a wide class and popularity gap. Bookish, wealthy Marianne is considered an "object of disgust" at school. Sporty Connell, whose mother works as a cleaner in Marianne's house, is well-liked. Both are smart, Marianne openly and Connell secretly. They fall in love, it gets messy, and their social status shifts when they both attend Dublin's Trinity College as undergraduates.
Filming took place in Dublin, Sligo and Italy for the TV adaptation, with British actress Daisy Edgar Jones playing Marianne and Irish actor Paul Mescal making his TV debut as Connell. For Carricklea, the protagonists' fictional hometown, the production team headed to the town of Tubbercurry in Sligo, according to Tourism Ireland, who just released a behind-the-scenes video documenting filming locations.
Director Abrahamson said of filming in Ireland: "it felt wonderful to be bringing such an amazing novel to life in the country where I’m from and in the landscapes which I love and know so well, both urban and rural." While Edgar-Jones said, "you can't help but feel the history when you're in Dublin, particularly when we were filming in Trinity."
"The social side of Dublin is something you have to go and experience," she added. "We'd be walking around Dublin and someone would point to a pub and be like 'oh, Jonathan Swift drank there or James Joyce or WB Yeats'. That's just incredible."
In Tubbercurry, New Year's Eve scenes were filmed in Brennan's pub, a traditional pub on Teeling Street, while other locations used in the town include St John the Evangelist Church and Killoran's pub. Much of Sligo's outdoor scenes were shot on Streedagh Strand and at Benbulben.
Scenes for the university years were shot on location in Trinity College, already a popular tourist attraction. Real-life city-centre locations throughout Dublin were also used, including bars and cafés on Capel Street and in Rathmines, with popular student haunt Blackbird pub making a few appearances. Cast and crew also visited Italy for scenes that depict a group trip to Trieste from the book, though those scenes were shot just outside of Rome in a house known as Il Casale, which you can view here on Airbnb.
Author Rooney, who also wrote the screenplay, said filming in Ireland was crucial to the story. "The book is set in a small fictional town in Co Sligo, and in a few specific locations in Dublin, and none of us really felt that those places were generic or interchangeable," the writer who hails from Co Mayo told the Irish Sun. "We were committed to getting the environment right and doing justice to the specific setting of the story, and I think that’s become an important part of the show."
Normal People is airing on RTE One in Ireland, BBC Three in the UK and Hulu in the US.
This article was first published on 19 November, 2019 and updated on 30 April, 2020.