6 great movies set in Italy to watch before you go

movies set in italy

Italy is unquestionably one of the most cinematic countries in the world. It has everything – stunning landscapes, amazing cities, gorgeous coasts, wonderful culture and iconic landmarks taking you through thousands of years of history. It is no surprise that beautiful Italia has had so many wonderful films made there. What better way to set the mood for an Italian holiday than watching one of the many unforgettable movies that take place there? Here are 5 films where Italy has a starring role.

Roman Holiday (1953)

Possibly the classic film set in Italy, this comedy beautifully captures the romance and magic of Rome. Starring Audrey Hepburn as a bored princess on a state visit gone AWOL who falls for Gregory Peck‘s scheming American journalist, the film truly lives and breathes Rome. The two get chased through the Piazza Venezia on a Vespa, eat gelato on the Spanish Steps and visit the Mouth of Truth, where Peck fools Hepburn into thinking the mouth has bitten off his hand. Every scene has the sights of Rome as the stunning backdrop as the two eventually fall in love. The film was a worldwide box-office success and made a superstar of Hepburn, who won her only Academy Award for her first-ever starring role. The film also popularised the Vespa, with the couple’s scenes on the scooter said to have been worth 100,000 sales alone. The touristic legacy of the movie remains today – with the posters of the film being sold everywhere across the city as souvenirs.

The Italian Job (1969)

“You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off” is just one of the oft-quoted lines in this seminal British comedy caper. The movie stars Michael Caine as a newly-released convict who puts together a team to attempt a daring heist in which they create a traffic jam in Turin to steal a huge shipment of gold. The film emanates cool with a soundtrack composed by Quincy Jones and it has become synonymous with the Swinging Sixties. Turin features heavily, with the traffic jam that starts the heist taking place in the Piazza Castello – leading to the iconic rooftop chase, where Mini Coopers speed over the roof of the Palavela indoor arena and onto the test race track built over Fiat’s old factory. The film begins and ends in the Italian Alps; the opening scene featured the Great Saint Bernard Pass and the famous mountain road cliffhanger finale (complete with teetering bus) was filmed 50 miles from Turin on the Nivolet Pass. The popularity of the film endures to this day – in 1999 the British Film Institute named The Italian Job the 36th greatest British film of all time and it also spawned a remake in 2003 starring Mark Wahlberg and Charlize Theron.

A Room with a View (1985)

Based on the classic E.M. Forster novel of the same name, the film is set in England and Italy, but it is the gorgeous scenes shot in Florence and the Tuscan countryside that are the most unforgettable. Helena Bonham Carter made her film debut as Lucy, an inhibited Edwardian woman who has to choose between the snobbish and wealthy Cecil (brilliantly portrayed by Daniel Day Lewis) and the free-thinking and passionate George (Julian Sands), who she meets in Florence while touring the continent with her cousin. The movie is lovingly and beautifully shot and if you are thinking of going to Tuscany for a holiday, this film is a must-see. Florence is featured in all its glory, especially the stunning Piazza Della Signoria and Piazza Santa Croce. If you book with plenty of notice you can stay in room 414 of the Hotel degli Orafi which was used as the ‘Pensioni Bertolini’ where Lucy stayed during her time in Florence, with splendid views over the River Arno and the Ponte Vecchio.

The Talented Mr Ripley (1999)

This is a brilliant multi-layered and psychological thriller with a gripping plot. In late 1950s New York, Tom Ripley, a young social-climbing con man, is sent to Italy to persuade Dickie Greenleaf, the son of a wealthy shipping magnate, to abandon his hedonistic lifestyle and return to his father in America. When his mission fails, everything escalates into deceit and eventually murder, climaxing in a thrilling end on the streets of Venice. In addition to starring an ensemble cast (Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Cate Blanchett and Philip Seymour Hoffman all sparkle), the film is one of the best to watch to see Italy in all its beauty. In Rome scenes were shot in the Piazza Navona, Piazza di Spagna and the Spanish Steps and the final part of the film showcases the Caffe Florian and Piazza San Marco in Venice. The beautiful islands of Ischia and Procida near Naples were used to portray the fictional town on Mongibello and the scenes along the Amalfi coast alone will have you reaching for a holiday brochure!

Letters to Juliet (2010)

This fun and touching movie stars Amanda Seyfried as Sophie, a young woman who takes a vacation to Verona with her restauranteur fiancé. While he busies himself in fine wines and aromatic cheeses, she becomes entranced by the local tradition of lovelorn woman writing letters to Shakespeare’s tragic heroine Juliet Capulet, putting them up on the walls of her supposed house. She eventually finds a letter written by a heartbroken woman in the 1950s, and is inspired to return the letter to its owner and sets off on an Italian adventure. If you are planning to visit Verona and are a fan of romantic comedies (watch out for a brilliantly wacky performance by Vanessa Redgrave), you will love this film. The historic and stunning Old Town in Verona is wonderfully utilised, and should you visit then make sure you see Juliet’s Balcony – no one is quite sure if it really is her balcony, but you never know…

Quantum of Solace (2008)

No list of movies that take place in Italy would be complete without a James Bond flick, and if you’re in the mood for Bond and want to see beautiful Italia too, Quantum of Solace will tick all your boxes. The movie follows on directly from Casino Royale and opens in Italy – where Bond is seeking revenge for his former lover’s death. The film opens with Bond driving from Lake Como to Siena with the captured Mr White in the boot of his Aston Martin, and soon moves to a thrilling chase across the rooftops of Siena. Quantum of Solace also has beautifully shot scenes in Lake Garda, Craco in Matera and the towns of Massa-Carrara, Maremma and Grosseto in Tuscany. Bond aficionados looking for other 007 films set in Italy can get their fix with From Russia with Love and Moonraker.

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