Movies sometimes play a fun trick: they make you fall in love with a place, a town, a country.
Sometimes the trick is so powerful that you start dreaming about visiting such place – or even moving there – and you feel that you absolutely HAVE to go there, sooner or later.
I had basically no interest in New York before seeing “You’ve Got Mail”, the 90s movie starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. That movie made me fall in love with the city so badly that I started planning my trip right away – I managed to visit the city years later, actually, but I thoroughly enjoyed the process of planning and was not disappointed at all when I finally saw the place of my dreams.
This happened to me with many other places and movies – sometimes with books as well, but nothing beats the imagery a movie can create, in my opinion – and not only with foreign countries but with my dear Italy as well.
Since you are reading this blog, you might already be in love with Italy but I decided to share with you some international movies set in Italy, just in case you need to reinforce your passion. If you need to be inspired to visit the country, I am sure you’ll find the motivation in the movies I recommend you, if you are already in love with it, you can keep on dreaming while watching them!
While selecting the movies, I decided to choose international movies only so that you can easily find them everywhere in their original version – there are amazing Italian movies but it is hard to find them abroad. Moreover, I chose only the movies I watched and found interesting: some of them are not exactly cinematographic masterpieces but I chose them because Italy is lovely in them or because there’s something worth watching.
Well, let’s discover these movies where Italy plays such a big role, shall we?
A Room With A View
I remember watching this movie for the first time when I was a teenager and falling madly in love with Florence. I had never been there at the time and started dreaming about it. The city is portrayed in a very romantic and charming way – a bit different from what it is now, crowded with tourists – but I especially loved the scenes in the countryside, which is still pretty much as untouched as it is in the movie.
Actually, I really liked the movie beyond its Italian setting, so I really recommend you watching it if you haven’t already. It tells the story of Lucy Honeychurch (played by Helena Bonham Carter in her first important role), who frees herself from the restrictive culture of Edwardian England and falls in love with a free-spirited young guy.
Letters to Juliet
I can’t say this movie is a masterpiece but it’s perfect for a cold winter afternoon when you only want to curl up on your sofa with a cup of tea and something relaxing to watch on TV. This is just what I did when I watched the movie and I quite liked it. It tells the story of Sophie, an American girl who is on holiday in Verona, where she finds an unanswered “letter to Juliet” (usually sent to Juliet to seek advice on love) and decides to go on a quest to find the lovers referenced in the letter.
As I said, the movie is set in Verona, the lovely city where the desperate love story of Romeo and Juliet took place, and even though the portrait is quite romantic and a bit cheesy – I couldn’t be otherwise given the topic of the movie – it’s a great way to see a bit of such an amazing city (which absolutely deserves to be visited if you come to Italy).
To Rome With Love
I am a fan of Woody Allen’s old movies but I really do not like his most recent ones. I keep on watching them, merely out of curiosity, and they keep on disappointing me. Actually, to be honest, I stopped watching them, probably right after seeing this one. The movie depicts the lives of different people, who find themselves in Rome. There are different plots in the movie but they seem to be randomly put together and their stories are not interesting nor engaging at all – in my opinion, of course!
I didn’t like the movie at all but I have enjoyed seeing the beauty of Rome in it. The Telegraph might be right when it writes “Allen’s vision of the Eternal City is about as authentic as a ham and pineapple pizza: every street is cobbled and garlanded with ivy” but sometimes it is also nice to watch a movie like you would leaf through a glossy travel photo book, don’t you think?
Eat Pray and Love
Here’s another movie I have some problems with. I actually had quite some problems with the book as well (but not with Elisabeth Gilbert, as I really liked Big Magic), so I wasn’t expecting to really like the movie – as a matter of fact, I didn’t like it. As you may already know, it tells the story of the author who, after divorcing from her husband, travels the world to find her true self and real happiness.
During her journey, the author spends four months in Italy, where she discovers the joy of eating and tasting great food. While in Italy, she spends some time in Rome and visits Naples as well. As it happens with Woody Allen’s movie, those locations are shiny and polished, which is something I am fine with, but there’s something in the way Italy is depicted that is just fake, something like a caricature. So basically, enjoy the magic views but please be aware: Italians are not exactly like those portrayed in that movie!
After two movies I don’t like that much, it’s definitely time for a change. So let me tell you about a little-known movie which I really enjoyed. The movie, directed by Michael Winterbottom and starring Colin Firth, tells the story of a college professor who, after the death of his wife, decides to change his life and moves to Italy with his two daughters.
The movie is set in Genova, which is portrayed in a very honest and genuine way, in all its amazing, imperfect beauty: there are the dark alleys of the city center and the bright light of the seaside locations nearby, the enchanting beauty of the old palaces and the crowded streets, full of motorbikes and cars, creating a realistic picture of the city which I really appreciated.
I watched this movie when it first came out, in 1996, and never watched it again, so I can’t really judge it. It’s been a really long time and I remember liking it but there isn’t much more I can’t say. But there is one thing I remember very well: the amazing Tuscan countryside where the movie is set. The exact location is the area around Siena, which has no comparison in Italy for its awesome views and overall scenery.
Speaking of the movie itself, it is directed by Bernardo Bertolucci and tells the story of a young American girl who goes to Italy to spend the summer with some friends of her mother, who recently died. She finds herself among a circle of intellectual and artistic types, way older than she is, and somehow upsets the balance of forces in the group with her youth and sensuality.
This 2010 movie stars Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp in some kind of romantic action movie set in Europe. Johnny Depp plays an American tourist, who meets a charming lady with a mysterious secret: she takes him on an adventure that involves a good deal of espionage and intrigue, while showing some beautiful European locations at the same time.
The adventure begins in Paris and then moves to Venice, where most of the plot takes place. Venice is a character in itself and shows off as an amazing backdrop to all the events that take place in this movie so full of action and energy. Maybe it won’t be the best action movie you’ll ever see – spoiler, it won’t – but Venice is worth a couple of entertaining hours.
The Talented Mr. Ripley
Just like Stealing Beauty, I watched this movie when it first came out, in 1999, and never watched it again. And just like Bertolucci’s film, I remember liking it very much but nothing more. However, there is one thing I vividly remember – apart from how gorgeous Jude Law was, ahem – and it’s the beauty of Ischia and Procida. I still haven’t managed to go there but I have been wanting to ever since!
The movie has a stellar cast, featuring Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Cate Blanchette, and Philp Seymour Hoffman, and tells the story of Tom Ripley, a young man who tries to make a living cheating and telling lies. When a rich man hires him to go to Italy and find his son Dickie, lots of adventures begin – not only in Ischia but also in other great locations like Venice, Rome, Naples and even some parts of Tuscany.
The Italian Job
Only a very small portion of this movie was set in Italy but that scene was so nice that I decided to include it anyway. The scene I am referring to is actually the opening of the picture, which portrays a robbery and then a compelling and frantic chase in the midst of Venice canals. The scene is breathtaking and Venice is amazing as usual.
The movie is the remake of a 1969 movie with Michael Caine (I have to check that one out!) and tells the story of a group of thieves who make one final big robbery but are betrayed by a team member. Once again, the movie is not a masterpiece, but I found it really fun and entertaining, something nice to watch when you just want to relax and do not think too much.
Call Me By Your Name
Let me end this selection with one of the best movies I have seen recently. It’s directed by Luca Guadagnino and tells the love story between two young guys, Elio and Oliver, a friend of Elio’s father. The movie is a romantic coming of age drama, it is very delicate and sweet and the actors are amazing – Timotée Chalamet, who plays Elio, in particular.
The story is told over the span of a summer and it is set in Crema and its enchanting countryside. Crema is a small provincial town in Lombardy, just one hour away from Milan, which is completely off-the-beaten-track when it comes to tourism. However, Luca Guadagnino is able to show its hidden beauty and make it shine, again in a very delicate and genuine way. I can’t wait to visit it!
I hope you liked this selection of movies. Have you seen some of them? What’s your opinion? Are there others you’d recommend? Let me know!
If you are interested in learning more about Italian culture and lifestyle, I’d suggest you jump on my digital Vespa and join Be Italian For A Month, your 30-day virtual journey to Italy.
You will also learn some Italian words, you’ll receive some typical Italian recipes – ready to be cooked and enjoyed, you’ll get to tour around Italy, and learn about Italian traditions, proverbs, stereotypes, you name it. Plus, some cute surprises along the way!