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The Best Movies Set In Italy

April 29th, 2020 by Megan Peterson

Since we’re unable to physically travel at the moment, we are limited to the power of our imaginations to transport us into another realm. Besides books and virtual tours, movies are one of the best ways to feel inspired to travel and immerse yourself in another time and place. Whether you were supposed to travel to Italy during this time and had to cancel or you’re simply an Italophile and cinephile rolled into one, we have rounded up the best movies set in Italy so you can fantasize about your future travels to the bel paese.

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Bicycle Thieves (1948)

This black and white film won the BAFTA award for best film. Set in Rome after WWII, a man is thoroughly relieved when he gets a job hanging posters around the city. However, a thief steps in and snatches his bicycle sending him into crisis mode. The film follows him as he scours the city in search of it with his vivacious son at his side.

Roman Holiday (1953)

A classic from Hollywood’s golden period, this film follows Audrey Hepburn as she gallavants around the city of Rome. An undercover princess, Hepburn believes she’s fooling her knowing host, Gregory Peck, who happens to be a journalist looking for a story. Not only is the film endlessly charming but it’s also full of gorgeous scenes of the city.

La Dolce Vita (1960)

One of the most referenced Italian films, Federico Fellini’s film follows protagonist Marcello Rubini, who is a full-time Roman reporter and part-time playboy. The most famous scene involves Sylvia, played by Anita Ekberg, as she wades right into the Trevi Fountain in an evening gown. Don’t try that today though, or you’ll be subject to a heavy fine! 

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The Godfather (1972)

The award-winning film about the mafia tribe of Don Vita Corleone was based on Mario Puzo’s novel and directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Although the majority of the film is set in New York City, there is a hearty chunk that takes place in the Sicilian countryside. Although it's ripe with violence, it’s also highly quotable and deserves a place on any film buff’s radar.

Cinema Paradiso (1988)

Set in a small town in Sicily, Cinema Paradiso explores the impact the movies have on the life of a young boy. In the process, an unlikely friendship blossoms. Poignant and original, the film will invoke feelings of nostalgia and appreciation for the relationships that helped you become who you were meant to be.

Life Is Beautiful (1997)

This World War II drama stars Robert Benigni, a Jewish librarian who tries to protect his son from the horrors of the haulocaust through humor and imagination. The beginning of the movie is set in Arezzo, a small city about an hour away from Florence in Tuscany. Prepare for an emotional rollercoaster as the story is bound to make you laugh and make you cry immediately after.

Read next: Museums in Florence Italy - What To Expect?

Il Postino: The Postman (1994)

Set on the tiny island Procida off the coast of Naples, Il Postino tells the story of an uneducated man who becomes the postman in charge of delivering all mail to the poet, Pablo Neruda, who has just arrived there. Over time, an unlikely friendship develops.

Tea With Mussolini (1999)

A young boy is sent by his disinterested father to live with a British woman after his mother dies. Set in fascist Italy in the 1930s, the woman and her culture friends care for him as best as they can until World War II breaks out. The film takes place in the small town of San Gimignano, an hour outside of Florence.

Eat Pray Love (2010)

Julia Roberts stars as Elizabeth Gilbert in this movie adaptation of the popular book. After a nasty divorce, a travel writer becomes burnt out on life in New York City, and decides to spend the next year - you guessed it - eating in Rome, Italy, praying in India, and loving in Bali. Although only the beginning of the film is set in Rome, the scenery and spotlight on cuisine will have you dreaming of your own getaway.

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To Rome With Love (2012)

A quirky film that follows four separate plots - an average joe in his five seconds of fame, a precarious love triangle, the curiosity of a vacationing couple, and an initiative by a washed up director - as they unfold in Rome. Partially in English and partially in Italian, the film shines a light on expats and locals alike as they each encounter situations that are out of the ordinary.

The Great Beauty (2013)

This film tells the story of Jep, a journalist who has spent the greater part of his life enjoying the parties and glamour of Roman nightlife. At 65, he starts to realize that maybe his approach to life isn’t the most fulfilling and he opens his eyes to the great beauty that surrounds him. Directed by Paolo Sorrentino, the film won the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film.

Photo by Denise Jans on Unsplash


Megan Peterson

American content writer in Italy. Her hobbies include getting dressed up to go to art museums, hopping on trains to cities she's never been, and talking to herself in a mixture of English and Italian.


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