Movies About Italy To Inspire Wanderlusts
Scenes of Italy have been dominating my sleep since Covid hit and travel stopped. Of all the countries in all the world, it is Italy I have longed for the most. Until I can set foot on Italian soil again there will be a big pizza-shaped hole in my heart.
Meanwhile, I have been nurturing my wanderlust with a bunch of movies set in Italy. But alas, not all movies made in Italy are equal. Whilst some film titles have you clicking the play button, confidently expecting Italian film scenes that will soothe your aching heart, sometimes you don’t even get to see beyond the run-down Italian villa or Tuscan farmhouse!
Nobody wants to waste their precious free time watching drivel that only shows you a brief snapshot of repeated and overused Italian views and tourist shots either. You want inspiring, you want to be asking ‘where is that? – I need to go!’, you want to be checking Sky-Skanner for the next available flight! And you also don’t want to be bored to pieces.
I have sat through many hours of movies about Italy, some bangers, some clangers. But if you’re really missing Italy like me and want to be inspired, here are the top 6 best Italian movies in my books…
My Six Favourite Movies Set In Italy
1. The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
Location; The Campania region, mostly the island of Procida but some Ischia and Positano. Starring; Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law.
I feel like The Talented Mr Ripley was pretty much single-handedly fully responsible for kickstarting my desire to travel. Hence why I needed to put it as number one in my list of Best Movies About Italy. I remember watching it thinking ‘where IS this place? I have to go!’ The film location was so flaming beautiful I half believed it must be a film-set.
The Talented Mr Ripley is a psychological thriller based around the fictional town of Mongibello, Italy, and is mostly set on the island of Procida, just off the coast of Naples, and still to this day looks like a place time forgot. I mean, you could kinda say that about the whole of Italy, I know – a country where rustic and run-down is fashionable, where a good earthquake/volcano could make thousands of Euros worth of improvements! But Procida is 1950’s heaven, and has pretty much remained in that decade ever since.
Pastel coloured houses line the slopes of this old volcanic island and from every angle it’s an eye-salve. The delight is in the detail – the film gives you 1950’s glamour with authentic 1950’s Italian living for the glamorous elite. If you haven’t seen it you’re in for a real treat.
2. The Tourist (2010)
Location; Venice and Rome Starring; Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp.
I honestly don’t know why The Tourist gets 20% on Rotten Tomatoes!
OK, I do know. There’s barely a plot, the characters are naff and if the movie wasn’t set in Venice there’d have been a mass exodus at any cinema beyond 10 minutes! But this film IS set in Venice, it does have Jonny Depp in it and Angelina Jolie’s wardrobe is mucho-glamorous. Sometimes you’ve just got to tune out the dross to appreciate the beauty.
There are many movies set in Venice, it’s what you’d expect from one of the most beautiful cities on earth, but often the location scenes are muted and wasted. Not in The Tourist. This romantic-thriller takes in scenes from the Grand Canal, the Rialto market, Venetian Palazzo’s (or palaces), stunning vistas and all of the other famous Venice locations you want to be reminded of in a 90-minute sitting.
Venice is breath-taking, and so are Depp and Jolie, so settle in, take off your critics cap and prepare for your pupils to be heart-shaped by the end of the film.
3. Tea With Mussolini (1999)
Location; Florence and San Gimignano Starring; Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Cher
Tea With Mussolini was a new film for me over lockdown and actually the inspiration for this post about movies filmed in Italy. It was recommended by a friend and I was immediately put off watching it because she told me Cher was in it! However, the rest of the film absolutely made up for the casting directors oversight and I needn’t have been discouraged.
A group of women from an English community of artists in Florence bring up an illegitimate child in fascist Italy during World War 2. It’s fast-paced and funny as you would expect from the likes of Dench and Smith, but the best part is it’s based upon a true story. This makes it all the more heartwarming when their plans succeed.
The scenes of mid-30’s Florence are charming but my absolute highlight was seeing the beautiful old town of San Gimignano again and being reminded of our takeaway pizza on a bench with views over the old city walls. Proving that watching movies from Italy can help with the wanderlust pangs and keep you going until you can fulfil that dream!
Interestingly, San Gimignano might not still have its towers today if it wasn’t for the brave women in this autobiography.
Angels And Demons (2009)
Location; Rome, The Vatican. Starring; Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor.
Combining two of my favourite things, Rome and art, Dan Brown’s Angels And Demons was always going to be a hit with me. I couldn’t wait for the film adaption of the book about the ‘Illuminati’ since there are SO many interesting historical facts within the story. In fact, one time we went to Rome we made it a goal to search out some of the movies locations and pieces of art and a few even made it onto our ‘Hidden Gems of Rome‘ post.
It’s an action-packed film that has the main characters running all over Rome in search of symbolic clues which will help them save Vatican City from being blown to pieces. Many of the clues are found in famous pieces of art in Rome, or sculptures or fountains. It’s a fantastic movie (of course – Tom Hanks is in it!) but it’s also rather educational if you allow it to be. One of the best films set in Italy in my opinion.
Walking On Sunshine (2014)
Location; Puglia, particularly the Salento region. Starring; Leona Lewis, Hannah Arterton, Greg Wise
Walking On Sunshine is a British romantic comedy musical with a whole host of British actors you can be all ‘aw, what’s he/she off again!?’. Think Mama Mia but set in Puglia, and you won’t even have to endure any ABBA songs!
In fact, the playlist is epic; a major throwback to the days you taped the charts on a Sunday off the radio. Madonna, Whitney Houston, Human League, Roxette and The Bangles just to get you started! For a girl who imagines her own life scenes playing out like flash-mobs every time she has ‘a moment’, this film gives me thrills and chills. However, I’m perfectly willing to accept the cheese levels are just too much for some people, it’s certainly not everybody’s cup of tea!
But the ultimate reason it gets a place on my Best Movies In Italy list is mostly that it’s a postcard-fest for the gorgeous Italian region of Puglia. Scenes from Lecce’s beautiful Piazza del Duomo, a tomato festival in Nardo and a ton of beach shots from all over Salento in Apulia.
By the way, if you want your own Puglian vacation, we stayed at Hotel Relais Masseria Le Cesine and we can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s located in the middle of an Olive Grove a few minutes from the sea and is also the perfect base for exploring Puglia’s best bits.
Roman Holiday (1953)
Location; Rome. Starring; Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck
It’s no secret to regular readers that our favourite place in Italy, dare I say the world, is Rome. Therefore, the love story of Roman Holiday will always have me glued to the screen. It’s full to the brim with film locations around the Eternal City and it’s got that lovely 1950’s glamour to it too – mind you, I’m pretty sure Rome hasn’t changed much in the last 70 years!
Whilst Audrey circumnavigates the city in one day, with a thousand lira in her pocket, she manages to blag herself a gelato, a haircut, a new pair of shoes and … Maybe a little more believable is just how incredible the city, the backdrop to her adventure, is – I defy any Rome-virgin to watch this film and not want to visit after.
I’m not going to list the film locations here, because, well, it does a pretty good job of showing off all its top spots – after all, that was Joe Bradley’s intention as he whirls the princess around the city on the back of his Vespa. However, if you are ever to visit Rome in the future, check out our Hidden Gems post for tips on how to find some of these locations, such as the hidden Mouth of Truth.
And there you have it – my favourite films set in Italy! Italian romance movies, action packed thrillers and even a solid ten out of ten musical! But there are so many movies about Italy out there – do tell me your favourites!