Sure, you can read the guidebooks and look at pictures of Italian scenery, but nothing sets the mood for your Italian vacation better than watching a film featuring sympathetic characters and stunning Italian landscapes.
In case you need some convincing that you're going to love Italy, here are a few films where the country is featured in a starring role (most of them, obviously, with romantic plots).
Take a delightful romp around Rome with Audrey Hepburn as a wayward princess and Gregory Peck as a scheming reporter in this 1953 movie set in Rome (filmed in English). Hepburn won her only Academy Award for "Roman Holiday," which was her first-ever starring role. The movie is credited with creating interest in Vespa scooters after Hepburn and Peck shared one on screen.
Oscar-winning "Cinema Paradiso" is the story of a young Sicilian boy's love for the movies and his friendship with Alfredo, the projectionist at the local theater. It gives you a peek into the Italy of yesterday, with good music and a feeling for impoverished Sicily. You're almost certain to get choked up at the scene near the end when the now-grown-up Salvatore sees what happened to all those kissing scenes edited out of movies over the years.
While you might not warm up to Mr. Ripley himself, the beautiful Italian scenery is sometimes breathtaking. The movie is a thriller starring Matt Damon that takes place in several parts of Italy, including the Amalfi Coast.
This production of the E.M. Forster turn-of-the-century novel about young lovers Lucy Honeychurch and Gorge Emerson has beautiful scenes of Tuscany. The cinematography has the signature James Ivory/Ismail Merchant grandeur.
This 2000 Italian film that tells the tale of the unlikely romance between housewife Rosalba Barletta and maitre'd Fernando Girasole was filmed in Venice, which provides a perfect setting for a couple falling in love.
"Tea with Mussolini," directed by Franco Zeffirelli, is another Merchant/ Ivory period movie, this time set in Florence during the rise of fascism. The movie centers on a group of British and American women and a young boy living in Florence.
Roberto Benigni stars in this Oscar-winning film set during World War II, which tells the story of a father who shields his son from the horrors of a concentration camp by pretending it's all a game. While not a traditional romance per se, the love between the father and son in "Life is Beautiful" and the love story of the young boy's parents is very moving.
See Italy through the eyes of Danes as they meet for Italian lessons at the local community center. At its heart, this is a film about fulfilling dreams, a nice metaphor for an Italian vacation.
Set in the beautiful Tuscan countryside with magnificent scenery, this 1993 Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson version of the Shakespeare classic will get you in the mood for a trip to Tuscany. It's one of the easier Shakespeare plays to understand, telling the tale of the fiery romance between the saucy Benedick and the headstrong Beatrice.
This romantic tale set in 1950s Sicily tells the story of a lonely mailman (the postino of the title), who meets Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. The poet (and his words) helps the mailman woo the woman he loves.
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