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14 movies to watch before visiting Italy

Although at the moment we can’t afford to move as we wish, nothing prevents us from continuing to travel with imagination through Italy’s extraordinary beauty while sitting in our couch. To do it, the cinema offers a long list of films that are set right in Italy: here we have picked up for you fourteen of the most famous and significant movies.

1. Roman Holiday

Roman Holiday - Poster movie

One of the greatest films of the XX century (it is from1953) dedicated to the unequalled beauty of Rome, this famous movie tells the story of the adventures of Ann (Audrey Hepburn) in Rome: Ann is a princess who sneaks away from her diplomatic meetings to visit Rome as a normal tourist. Joe (Gregory Peck) finds her wandering in the streets of the city and tries to support her in her wish helping her avoid paparazzi and plain-clothes officers chasing her. In the most emblematic scene – the same on the film poster – Audrey Hepburn is riding a Vespa together with Gregory Peck, while speeding along the Colosseum and Piazza Venezia. Another corner of Rome particularly connected to the film is Via Margutta 51, where the atelier of a local sculptor became the house of main character Joe/Gregory Peck in the movie.

2. La Dolce Vita

La Dolce Vita - Poster movie

A masterpiece by Federico Fellini among the most famous in history, La Dolce Vita has become a Made-in-Italy icon and a wistful emblem of the fabulous Rome of the 1960s. This memorable film tells various episodes of the life of Marcello (Marcello Mastroianni), a gossip journalist attracted by society life and beautiful women. Main set of the events is the well-known Via Veneto (even if entirely recreated at the Cinecittà studios) and its bars where celebrities and middle-class people hang out. The most celebrated scene is that of Anita Ekberg bathing in the Trevi Fountain: Ekberg plays the role of the unbridled Sylvia, a famous actress who leaves a party to spend the night going around in the city with Marcello. This film holds several firsts: besides being an inspiration for many movies and directors, it led to the birth of the word paparazzo (from the name of a character in the movie).

3. The Talented Mr. Ripley

The talented Mr. Ripley - Poster movie

A praised thriller, this film is a real homage to Italy, with stages in the north and south of the country: the film locations include Ischia, Procida, Rome, Venice, Naples, the Sorrento Peninsula, Livorno, Palermo and Sanremo (even if the scenes at the casino were actually filmed in Anzio). Set in the late 1950s, this movie tells of the young Tom Ripley (Matt Damon), who, pretending to be a friend, is engaged by a wealthy New York family to bring home their son Dickie (Jude Law), who, with his girlfriend Marge (Gwyneth Paltrow), is living in retreat in Italy. Tom joins them in Ischia (called Mongibello in the movie), becomes their friend and creeps into their lives until passing himself off as Dickie. Among the most famous scenes is that on the beach, in Ischia, when the three meet for the first time, and the scene with Rosario Fiorello, Jude Law and Matt Damon singing “Tu vuò fa’ l’americano” in a club in Ischia.

4. The Tourist

The Tourist - Poster movie

A romantic thriller set in the most romantic of locations – Venice -, The Tourist is about Frank Tupelo (Johnny Depp), an American math teacher who meets a mysterious fascinating woman, Elise (Angelina Jolie), on a train and follows her to Venice. He doesn’t know that Elise is being followed by the police, looking for her husband (guilty of tax fraud and supposed to have undergone plastic surgery to alter his appearance). In one of the most famous scenes, Frank jumps out of a balcony right on the canopy of a fruit stall at the central Rialto market close to the Grand Canal. Most of the indoor scenes are instead set inside the Hotel Danieli, one of the most luxurious in town right in front of the lagoon.

5. The Great Beauty

The Great Beauty - Poster movie

A briliant, melancholic fresco of contemporary Rome, this movie by Sorrentino tells about Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo), a writer and disenchanted, bored dandy and socialite. His sixty-fifth birthday and the loss of Elisa, his only big love, bring back memories of his youth and make him consider the idea to start writing again. In the most symbolic movie scene, Jep is lying in a hammock in his terrace: in front of him are the Colosseum, the Vittoriano and far in the distance the St. Peter’s Dome. Anyway, also lesser spots of Rome, but equally evocative, appear, like Parco degli Acquedotti along the Appian Way, the Fontana dell'Acqua Paola and the Tempietto di Bramante.

6. The Da Vinci Code

The Da Vinci Code - Poster movie

The Da Vinci Code trilogy shows an Italy made of intrigues, secrets and literary suggestions. After the first chapter set in Paris, with Angels and Demons the trilogy shifts to Rome where symbology professor Langdon (Tom Hanks) is trying to shed light on the anticlerical sect of the ''Illuminati'' that are acting against the Vatican; this film shows emblematic views of St. Peter's Square, the Pantheon, the Chigi Chapel in Santa Maria del Popolo (here is the sculpture by Bernini at the center of the movie) and Castel Sant'Angelo. Inferno kicks off from Florence, where we find Langdon trying to stop a psycho who wants to spread a pandemic inspired to Dantes’ Inferno. In the background is especially Palazzo Vecchio, the town hall of Florence, but also the Boboli Gardens, where the main characters escape to reach the Vasari Corridor.

7. Il Postino: The Postman

Il Postino: The Postman - Poster movie

A last artistic testament by Massimo Troisi (who died prematurely just a few hours after the end of filming) and splendid praise of the Mediterranean soul, this film is set between Procida, in the Gulf of Naples, and Salina, in the Aeolian Islands, in the 1950s. It follows the story of Mario Ruoppolo (Massimo Troisi) who, every day, delivers letters to Pablo Neruda (Philippe Noiret), in a political asylum on the island; the two discuss about poetry and become friends. One of the most important scenes, when Mario and Beatrice (Mariagrazia Cucinotta) first meet, takes place in the Pozzo Vecchio Beach, on the western side of the island of Procida, where, in via Marina di Corricella 43, is also the postman’s inn; the famous “Casa Rossa” where the poet lives is instead in the district of Pollara, on the island of Salina, where most of the shooting in nature take place.

8. The Enghlish Patient

The English Patient - Poster movie

A praise of the timeless beauty of Tuscany, this film is set in different localities of the region during WWII. After being seriously injured in an air crash, count László Almásy (Ralph Fiennes), is hosted in an abandoned cloister where Hana (Juliette Binoche), a young Canadian nurse, a war widow, takes care of him. The man doesn’t remember anything about his past: the only hints to trace back his identity come from the book the mysterious Count carries with him. Most of the scenes were filmed in Pienza, in the Val D’Orcia, among Monastero di Sant’Anna in Camprena (today an agriturismo managed by the Diocese), Piazza Pio II and Castello di Cosona; outdoor scenes were filmed in Ripafratta, in the province of Pisa, on the beach of Forte dei Marmi and Viareggio, where, within the complex of Principe di Piemonte, was set up the British consulate.

9. Malèna

Malèna - Poster movie

A 2000 film by Giuseppe Tornatore, Malena celebrates Sicily and its Baroque beauties. This film is set in the imaginary village of Castelcutò, during WWII. It’s about a 13-old boy, Renato, and his crush on Malena (Monica Bellucci), the most beautiful and most envied woman in town. Renato dreams about her, spies her and follows her personal events: when she becomes a widow, Malena ends up alone and humiliated. In the film’s most evocative scene, Malena is strolling alone crossing what actually is Piazza del Duomo di Ortigia, historic heart of Syracuse. Other locations include also Marina di Noto with its kilometer-long beach, where the kids wait for the arrival of Malena and follow her with their bicycles, and the cliff of Scala dei Turchi, where Renato takes refuge in his solitude.

10. Stealing Beauty

Stealing Beauty - Poster movie

Told with the gaze enraptured by magic of someone seeing Italy for the first time, this film directed by the great Bernardo Bertolucci tells the story of Lucy (Liv Tyler), an American 19-year old girl who is sent by her father to a family of friends living on the hills close to Siena. This mansion is a kind of community that houses intellectuals and artists of various origins among which Alex (Jeremy Irons). During her stay, Lucy will discover love and the truth about her own family. This film was shot in the surroundings of Siena: indoor scenes in a farmstead in the Ricasoli estate, in the Chianti region; the scene of the party at Villa Bianchi Bandinelli di Geggiano, in the municipality of Castelnuovo Berardenga.

11. The Trip to Italy

The Trip to Italy - Poster movie

A wonderful journey in the footsteps of the Romantic poets’ grand tour of Italy, in The Trip to Italy food is the star: comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon (playing themselves) are commissioned by a newspaper to go on a culinary road trip through Italy. The couple will taste gastronomic treasures from different locations from Piedmont to the Ligurian Riviera, from Rome to Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast, ending up their journey in Capri. Highlights during their literary tour are their visit to Byron’s house in Genoa and the visit to the Protestant cemetery in Rome, where Shelley’s ashes are buried. The funniest scene takes place in Pompeii, with Brydon’s imaginary dialogue with a fossilized corpse body.

12. The Italian Job

The Italian Job - Poster movie

Thirty years after the first Italian Job, that helped Turin to become famous all over the world, in 2003 a remake was released: with a different location but anyway connected to Italy. In the Italian Job dated 1969, a group of English robbers arrive in Turin to arrange a robbery against Fiat, a plan to carry out knocking out the sophisticated city traffic light control system. The 2003 Italian Job, instead, kicks off in Venice, where some expert thieves manage to steal some golden ingots from a palace eluding the police and escaping to the Alps; the setting then shifts to the US, where the group tempts a second robbery with the same technique used in Venice. In the most symbolic scene, in both films, the robbers escape with several Mini Cooper: in the 1969 film it takes place in the streets and along the covered walkways of downtown Turin; in the 2003 film the same scene relives with Mini cars hurtling across the streets of Los Angeles.

13. A Room with a View

A Room with a View - Poster movie

Capturing all the romance and beauty of the age of the Grand Tour, this movie is set in the early 1900s, with Lucy (Helena Bonham Carter), a young upper-class English girl in Florence on holiday. Disappointed that her room lacks a view on the Arno River, she agrees to exchange it with some other English guests: Mr Emerson and his son George. George’s non-conformism and the vitality of the city impress Lucy and give her new possibilities. The film is primarily set in Florence, with stunning views of Piazza della Signoria and Pontevecchio, as well as Fiesole. The “Pensione Bertolini” is actually the Hotel Degli Orafi, a 4-star hotel on the banks of the Arno.

14. Eat, pray, love

Eat, pray, love - Poster movie

Based on Elizabeth Gilbert’s blockbuster memoir, Eat pray love depicts Italy as a clichéd paradise of food and romance. Elizabeth (Julia Roberts) decides to step out of her comfort zone and leave for a solo travel across three countries to restore her zest for life. Her first stop is in Rome, where apart from visiting the city and its cultural treasures, she discovers the real pleasure of food, then setting out for India and Bali. Most suggestive scenes of her Roman stay involve food: like her eating an ice cream just out of Chiesa di Sant'Agnese in Agone, in Piazza Navona (as portrayed in the movie poster), her having lunch with her Italian teacher in a typical Roman restaurant (Antica Trattoria Della Pace) or her eating pizza in a traditional pizzeria (L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele) on a day-trip to Naples