Movies To Watch Before Visiting Italy

Italian cinema has produced some of the 20th century’s finest films and Italy – its grand cities, its beautiful countryside, its Latin culture – continues to inspire writers and directors around the world. In the following list, some of the movies are pure travel inspiration, others shed light on the country’s fascinating history and culture. Grab some popcorn and get stuck in.

Roman Holiday (1953)

Language: English

A light-hearted love story between American reporter Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck) stationed in Rome and stifled Princess Ann (Audrey Hepburn), who wants to escape the boredom of her royal tour. It was the film that put Hepburn on the map and arguably the Vespa scooter as well. Bradley, the princess and the Vespa make for a dashing trio zipping through the chaotic streets of Rome until Ann’s inevitable return to her regal duties. In this film, you see the wonders of the city and Italian charm through the romantic lense of a first time visitor.

Rocco e i Suoi Fratelli (Rocco and His Brothers) (1960)

Language: Italian

Five brothers from Southern Italy move to the industrial North in search of prosperity. Director Luchino Visconti expertly weaves the individual narratives of each brother into a tense and emotionally charged story about love, family and the reality of migrant life in postwar Milan. The city appears both gritty and beautiful – brutality set against the facade of bleak cinderblock apartments, but also romance on top of the Duomo. 1960s sex symbol Alain Delon received critical acclaim for his portrayal as Rocco.

La Dolce Vita (1960)

Language: Italian

Federico Fellini is one of Italian cinema’s most acclaimed directors and this film marks a transition from his neo-realist style to a more experimental phase. La Dolce Vita recounts the exploits of the womanising lothario and photojournalist, Marcello Rubini and his quest for ‘the sweet life’ and love during one week in Rome. This film is a prophetic analysis of fame, the cult of celebrity and the power of image. When it was released a headline-hunting newspaper referred to the film as ‘papparazzo’, famously coining the term that would go on to define 21st century media. It takes place in post-war Italy that is a nation rebuilding itself on the fragile foundations of emergent mass-consumerism and is a critique of the morality and cultures associated with it. Shot in black and white, this film captures the grandeur and eternal splendour of Rome and its leading stars, Marcello Mostroianni and Anita Ekberg, epitomise classic Hollywood beauty.

The Leopard (1963)

Language: Italian

This is based on the 1958 novel The Leopard, by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, which is considered one of the most important novels in modern Italian literature. It follows a Sicilian nobleman who lives through the social and political turmoil brought on by civil war in Italy and the subsequent difficulties of Italian unification in the early 1800s. Tomasi himself was the last in a line of minor princes in Sicily and wrote the historical novel after the Sicilian island of Lampedusa was bombed by Allied forces in World War II. It explores the decline of the aristocracy, societal changes and our morality. The 19th-century costumes are as beautiful and romantic as the Sicilian backdrop.

The Italian Job (1969)

Language: English

“You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!” is just one of Michael Cane’s perfectly delivered lines in this British comedy classic. Cane, playing cocky and charming Charlie Crokers who has just been released from Wormwood Scrubs prison, stars alongside Noel Coward and Benny Hill in a caper plot in which they plan to use a traffic jam in Turin to steal a weighty gold shipment. The film begins and ends on the stunning Great Saint Bernard Pass – a high altitude pass of hairpin bends that connects Valais in Switzerland with the Aosta Vallery in Italy. In between, Turin’s architectural landmarks provide the backdrop for the films iconic car chase that sees two minis drive down the grand stairway inside Baroque Palazzo Madama and speed around the rooftop race track of the old Fiat factory (1923–1982).

The Godfather (1972)

Language: English

The most famous mafia movie of all time focuses on the transfer of power within the family of ageing, Italian-American mobster, Don Vito Corleone, played by Marlon Brando, in what was arguably the performance of his career. Don Vito’s youngest and brightest son, Michael (Al Pacino), reluctantly agrees to lead the family’s activities and finds himself embroiled in the unavoidable cycle of violence, manipulation and betrayal associated with the Corleone line of work. The story, which is based on Mario Puzo’s 1969 novel, is set in the 1950s and takes place between New York and the rural village of Corleone, south of Palermo. By the time of filming, the real-life Corleone had been modernised and therefore two other locations just a few miles north were used – Forza d’Agro and Savoca. Both show stunning views of the Sicilian hinterland and the typical architecture of small hillside towns.

About the author


Add Comment

Click here to post a comment

Sign Up for Our Newsletters

Create an account for free access to an exclusive email newsletter delivering a selection of articles hand-picked by the editors (event updates, special offers and giveaways)