12 Movies To Watch Before Going To Italy

In Italy, seems that the moon is bigger, the gelato is sweeter, and the air more ripe with romantic possibility than anywhere else in the world. Each part of Italy has its own flavor of magic. There’s Rome, where relics of an ancient empire coexist with rich modern culture. Or Tuscany, where rolling fields end in quaint villages and stony cottages. Or Cinque Terre, where colorful houses cling to cliffs.

Unfortunately, Italy is a whole continent away for most of us. That’s where these movies come in. From romantic comedies to dark Italian dramas, each of these selections have the important components of a good movie. But really, their interesting plots and compelling characters are just an excuse for showing off Italy’s beautiful landscape.

So, whip up some spaghetti, pour yourself some vino, and dream of Italy. Maybe you’ll be inspired for your next vacation.

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Il Postino (1994)

After the famed Chilean poet Pablo Neruda is exiled from his homeland for political dissidence, he moves to a small island off the coast of Italy with his wife. Each day, a postman comes to deliver his mail. In this movie based on true events, the romantic coaches the bumbling, nervous postman on how to win the heart of his love, Beatrice. Like Mario the postman, you’ll start seeing the poetry in your own life, with the help of Pablo's wisdom.
Call Me By Your Name (2017)

It's 1983, and 17-year-old Elio Perlman (Timothee Chalamet) is resuming his annual summer schedule of lazing around his family's 17th-century villa. Then, Oliver (Armie Hammer), a 24-year old American scholar arrives to the villa — and suddenly, Elio can't concentrate on a thing. In this film based on a novel by André Aciman, Elio and Oliver wade through aching, blossoming desire. It's first love at its most moving and unforgettable.

Released to acclaim at Sundance, this passionate romance with a backdrop of the Italian coast hits theaters in November.
The Great Beauty (2013)

The plot is as simple as plots come: An aging writer walks through Rome and remembers his life and youth. But more than anything, Paolo Sorrentino's Academy Award-winning film is a love story to modern Rome. Each scene in this visually stunning movie is a feast for the eyes.
The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)

We can’t blame young Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) for wanting to live la dolce vita on the Italian Coast in the 1950s — but we do frown upon the lengths he took to do so. In this psychological thriller, Dickie Greenleaf’s wealthy father sends Tom to Italy to retrieve his son (Jude Law), who’s lounging all day with his ex-pat girlfriend (Gwyneth Paltrow). But Tom isn’t Dickie’s Princeton classmate, as his father thinks. Tom's a master of deception who will d0 anything to socialize with the upper echelon.
The Best Of Youth (2003)

More novel than movie, it takes six hours to fit this sprawling, epic story of two Italian brothers between the years 1963 and 2000. But trust us: These are the six majestic hours of a story you never knew you needed. You'll watch Nicola (Luigi Lo Cascio) and Matteo (Alessio Boni) grow up, fall in love, and "adult" amidst Italian political turmoil. The Best of Youth tracks the intersection of personal lives and history to form a biting, unforgiving portrait of being Italian in the latter half of the century.
Cinema Paradiso (1988)

Growing up in post-war Sicily, movies were more than entertainment for Salvatore Di Vita (Salvatore Cascio). They were an escape from the realities of his war-torn village, and a glimpse into the magic of the outside world.

Now a famous director in Rome, a middle-aged Salvatore returns home for the funeral of the film projectionist who changed his life forever. Cinema Paradiso is a nostalgic, beautiful trip down memory lane, where great loves intermingle with great loss. It's likely that this Oscar winner will never go out of style.
Life Is Beautiful (1998)

Life Is Beautiful begins with the comic, light-hearted courtship between Guido (Roberto Benigni), a kind, goofy waiter, and Dora (Nicoletta Brasci). Five years later, Guido and Dora's lovely life with their son collides with the dark forces of history. After they're sent to concentration camps, Guido is determined to shelter his young son, Giosue, from the truth. With elaborate lies, Guido convinces Giosue that the camp is just one big game, and the winners will receive an armored tank.
A Room With A View (1995)

During a trip to Florence, Lucy Honeychurch (Helena Bonham Carter) sees an alternative from her straight-laced, repressive Edwardian culture through her friendship with George Emerson (Julian Sands). After Lucy returns to London, her time in Tuscany with George stays with her, even as she considers marrying the boring (but wealthy) Cecil Vyse (Daniel Day-Lewis). When George bursts back into her life, Lucy will have to make a choice.
I Am Love (2009)

We bet you've never been to a dinner party like this one. Emma (Tilda Swinton) is a Russian native who married into the Recchi family, aristocrats who made their fortune in the textile industry. Could she have known, though, that as a Russian immigrant, she'd never truly be accepted? At this dinner, the patriarch transfers powers to the younger generation. In the days that follow in the Milanese mansion, we see how this impacts all the family members. Expect affairs, melodrama, and lush scenery galore.
Letters To Juliet (2009)

Is Letters to Juliet the most intellectually stimulating film ever? No. Is it just what you need in a romantic comedy set in Tuscany? Probably. Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) travels to Verona with her fiancé (Gael García Bernal), where countless lovers leave anonymous letters to Juliet. She finds an unanswered letter from 1957, and replies to the woman, now elderly and living in England. As a result, Claire Smith (Vanessa Redgrave) travels to Verona with her grandson (Christopher Egan) to track down her long-lost Italian lover.

Fun fact: Vanessa Redgrave is actually married to Franco Nero, who plays her lover Lorenzo Bartolini.
La Dolce Vita (1960)

Would this be a list of Italian movies if a Fellini flick weren't on it? In La Dolce Vita, we follow the restless meanderings of paparazzo Marcello Rubini. As he jumps from woman to woman, and pleasure to pleasure, we're given a portrait of a hedonistic lifestyle in the most beautiful city in the world: Rome.
Roman Holiday (1953)

Roma's fun-loving attitude is infectious, especially for Princess Anne (Audrey Hepburn), who's just arrived with her royal entourage. She escapes confinement, and is found by an American reporter (Gregory Peck) living in Rome. Once he realizes who's in his care, Joe promises he'll get an interview with the runaway princess. But, a few motorcycle rides and gelatos later, something unexpected begins to brew between them.
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