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The 20 Best Movies To Watch If You Want To Feel Like You're In Italy

Many films have the remarkable ability to transport us to new places. Whether through the emotional resonance of the story, the historical accuracy, or the setting itself — film breeds escapism. If you love to travel — and find yourself frequently daydreaming about a trip to Italy — there is a vast selection of breathtaking and culturally accurate cinema to take you there. 

Whether you dream of the picturesque winding roads and sprawling vineyards of the Tuscan countryside, the bustling cobblestone streets of historic Rome, or the sun-drenched paradise of the Italian coastline, there are plenty of ways to get your fix without having to leave your home.

If you missed out on your chance to soak up an Italian summer, or you're reminiscing about the time you may have spent there, we've compiled the following list of the 20 best movies to watch if you want to feel like you're in Italy — "when in Rome" or elsewhere.

1. Eat Pray Love

While this travelogue romantic film sees the protagonist go to several different countries, it has become synonymous with Italian culture. Adapted from a memoir of the same name, "Eat Pray Love" follows Elizabeth Gilbert (Julia Roberts) through Italy, India, and Indonesia as she attempts to rediscover herself following the breakdown of her marriage. 

At a crossroads in her life, Elizabeth is struggling with the concept of "having it all" and still not being happy. Leaving behind her old life, she steps out of her comfort zone and travels across the world to discover what she might be missing. While critically reviled, "Eat Pray Love" remains a guilty pleasure, bound to spark a sense of curiosity about traveling in just about everyone.

Set against gorgeous backdrops in Rome, Florence, and Naples, viewers follow along as Elizabeth navigates a path to self-discovery — learning from the friends and experiences she has along the way. As viewers journey through the Italian streets and Elizabeth's interactions with locals, "Eat Pray Love" provides a glimpse of what life is like in Italy — while challenging the work-centric culture prevalent in America. This film will leave you feeling warm and inspired — epitomized in the unforgettable scene where Liz teaches us all about our "moral imperative" to enjoy life ... and pizza.

2. Under the Tuscan Sun

Following a devastating divorce, Frances Mayes (Diane Lane) embarks on a 10-day tour through Tuscany in the hopes of someday being happy again. As she is reeling from the loss of her home to her cheating ex-husband, Frances impulsively buys a dilapidated villa in Cortona that she plans to renovate with the help of an eccentric group of workers and Italian neighbors. 

This award-winning 2003 film captures the true feeling of being in Italy, with the appearance of many famous Italian landmarks, including the Piazza del Duomo, Positano Beach, the famous Florence market in Piazza della Repubblica, and the many winding roads of the idyllic Tuscan countryside.

Audiences get to watch Frances find happiness in her new life, as she finds a support system among her peers, and dabbles in traditional Tuscan cooking. Diane Lane's honest portrayal of a writer stepping out of her comfort zone by broadening her horizons acts as a motivational tale. "Under the Tuscan Sun" leaves viewers with the lasting lesson that "unthinkably good things can happen, even late in the game" proving that you're never too old to start over.

3. Call Me by Your Name

"Call Me by Your Name" centers on the secret relationship between 17-year-old Elio (Timothée Chalamet) and 24-year-old Oliver (Armie Hammer). Set in the summer of 1983, the film takes place in a rural area of Northern Italy, where Elio spends long lazy summers with his family, reading, riding bikes, and writing music. Given that the film was adapted from an Italian novel — written by André Aciman — its depiction of the country is what makes this film so geographically and culturally accurate. Hammer and Chalamet's onscreen chemistry — highlighted by the gorgeous cinematography and set to the equally beautiful Italian countryside — is one of the reasons why this film was so critically-acclaimed.

Although the story contains deep undertones, the director considers "Call Me by Your Name" to be "light, warm, and summer-ish," (per Variety) as we follow along with Elio and Oliver's blossoming relationship in the sun-kissed Italian Riviera. According to director Luca Guadagnino, the film was never meant to be seen as a "gay" movie, instead, he hoped to draw attention to the "beauty of the newborn idea of desire, unbiased and uncynical" (per The Playlist). 

Guadagnino approached the film with the hopes of honoring his motto: that we should all live with a sense of "joie de vivre" (via Yahoo Movies). Plenty of films focus on Rome and Tuscany, but if you'd prefer a glimpse of life in Lombardy — framed against an exquisite bittersweet love story — "Call Me by Your Name" is the perfect film to watch.

4. Roman Holiday

This '50s classic is notable for so many reasons. The scenes of Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck careering around the streets on a Vespa shot the scooter to worldwide recognition — reportedly responsible for more than 100,000 sales (via BBC) — and it gave Hepburn her first Academy Award for best actress, to name just a few. 

"Roman Holiday" follows the fictional European princess, Ann (Audrey Hepburn), who is visiting Rome to perform royal duties. When she grows overwhelmed by her relentless obligations, she sneaks out to get a taste of freedom. What follows is a trip through the chaotic streets of the eternal city — through the lens of a first-time visitor — who falls in love with an American journalist (Gregory Peck) along the way.

"Roman Holiday" is home to the legendary haircut scene that immortalized the style Hepburn would carry with her throughout most of her career. With views of the Spanish Steps, the Mouth of Truth, Piazza della Rotonda, and many more, the film transports you to the busy streets of Rome and does a great job of incorporating so many iconic landmarks. Watching Ann shop at local markets, eat gelato, sip on champagne at Caffè Rocca, and zoom through the streets on a Vespa are what make this film feel so authentic and celebratory of Italian life. "Roman Holiday" will have you itching to book your own trip to the Italian capital.

5. The Hand of God

"The Hand of God" is an Italian coming-of-age drama set in '80s Naples, following the teenage boy, Fabietto Schisa (Filippo Scotti), as he comes to terms with the loss of his adolescence following a family tragedy. The plot is somewhat autobiographical — and deeply personal — as it was inspired by real events in director Paolo Sorrentino's life growing up in Naples (via The New York Times). 

As well as the hardships that Fabietto endures, "The Hand of God" juxtaposes this with youthful joy — with Napoli's football superstar, Diego Maradona, giving Fabietto something to celebrate. The beautiful cinematography does an excellent job of capturing the coast of Southern Italy, even as just a backdrop for some very emotional scenes.

A majority of the story is filmed in Naples, with views of the Stadio San Paolo (now the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona) and Galleria Umberto. However, the film also takes viewers along the picturesque Amalfi Coast to Capri and Sorrento, with stops in the Emerald and Blue Grottos. If it's the coast of Italy you wish to be immersed in, the visual storytelling in "The Hand of God" will make you feel like you are there.

6. La Dolce Vita

Taking its name from the well-known Italian phrase, the film's title "La Dolce Vita" translates in English to "the sweet life." Set in early '60s Rome, the black-and-white film chronicles a week in the life of a tabloid journalist, Marcello Rubini (Marcello Mastroianni), as he searches for happiness, love, and "la dolce vita." The Academy Award-winning film has been hailed as a "masterpiece" by countless critics for director Federico Fellini's focus on the more glamorous side of post-war Rome. 

There is no denying the cultural impact that "La Dolce Vita" has had on society. One of its more prominent characters was a relentless celebrity photographer, named Paparazzo (Walter Santesso) — which later made the film responsible for coining the term "paparazzi" when categorizing a type of crazed photojournalist (via Far Out Magazine).

While most of the filming locations were intricate set designs, Fellini would blend shots from constructed sets with real location shots, to give the film a more authentic feel (via Mille). Some of the genuine filming locations throughout the film include Bassano Romano Palace, St. Peter's Square, Piazza del Popolo, and the Trevi Fountain — the setting for one of the most iconic scenes. Viewers get a look at the opulent side of Rome as we follow Marcello's extravagant life full of movie stars, parties, and debauchery.

7. The Great Beauty

Directed by Paolo Sorrentino, "The Great Beauty" centers on Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo), a writer and theatre critic who is starting to grow regretful of his lavish yet superficial lifestyle. Jep has devoted his entire life not only to be a socialite but to being the "king of society," but this begins to take its toll. The aging Jep finds himself reevaluating the path he chose for himself while addressing the concept of lost love and what could have been. The artful cinematography depicts the vibrant party scene in Rome and, stylistically, bears a passing resemblance to the chaotic Baz Luhrmann classic of a similar name, "The Great Gatsby."

The film earned an Oscar for best foreign language film in 2014, as well as a number of critics awards. Ironically enough, the aforementioned "The Great Gatsby" was among the other Oscar winners that very same year. To create the film's unique aesthetic — giving a colorful peek into the world of the elite — Sorrentino chose filming locations around Rome such as Via Veneto, Parco degli Acquedotti, Lungotevere along the Tiber river, and Sant'Agnese in Agone for a sumptuous and authentically Italian feel.

8. To Rome with Love

Woody Allen's romantic comedy, "To Rome with Love" is told through four different vignettes about love, family, and status, taking place at the same time in Rome. Regardless of your current preconceptions of Woody Allen or this particular brand of rom-com with its intertwining stories, this 2012 film is suitably silly enough to pass the time. Despite the narrative contrivances, "To Rome with Love" has a sunny disposition that immerses you in many iconic Italian landmarks and recognizable streets.

"To Rome with Love" truly makes the most of the city, and depicts the iconic architecture in a way that offers a more lighthearted view of the city. Some filming locations used in the film include the Colosseum, Piazza del Popolo, the Trevi Fountain, Capitoline Hill, Piazza Venezia, and Piazza Navona. With Allen himself appearing in the film — marking his first acting role for six years — "To Rome with Love" features an all-star cast including Alec Baldwin, Penélope Cruz, Greta Gerwig, Elliot Page, and Jesse Eisenberg in this romantic tale spanning the eternal city.

9. From the Vine

When many people think of Italy, they're reminded of the beautiful blooming vineyards that stretch across the countryside; whether that be in Tuscany, Sicily, or the setting of our current story: Acerenza. "From the Vine" follows Marco Gentile (Joe Pantoliano) who becomes so disenchanted by his corporate lifestyle that he quits and moves to his hometown in rural Southern Italy, in the hope of fixing up his grandfather's vineyard.

The film's genteel pace and warm storytelling make it easy to enjoy the vast landscapes of the countryside and the olive trees that occupy the striking scenery. Viewers will be guided through a story as Marco learns how to make wine, breathing new life back not only into the vineyard but himself and his family as well. While its story of soul-searching and self-discovery doesn't break any new ground in this genre, it is nonetheless a comforting watch, and you might even learn a few things about the extensive winemaking process along the way.

10. A Room with a View

The 1985 film, "A Room with a View," is a romantic period piece set in Italy and England. The story follows Lucy Honeychurch (Helena Bonham Carter) as she discovers her true passion for life while on a trip to Italy. Away from the repressed culture of her proper life in England, she soon shifts her desires in favor of a more free-thinking outlook on life. "A Room with a View" was originally adapted from a novel of the same name, written by E.M. Forster during a visit to Italy at the age of 22.

Director James Ivory guides viewers on a trip throughout much of Florence, with appearances of the Arno River, Piazza della Santissima Annunziata, the Duomo, and the Fiesole countryside — among many other locations around London. The film was a huge box-office success and managed to garner widespread critical acclaim and multiple Academy Awards — still sitting at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. The film was later remade in 2007, but it was not as well-received and didn't quite have the impact it did back in the '80s. "A Room with a View" offers a sweeping love story, giving a great feel of the busy streets and calm river views spanning across the historical city of Florence.

11. Luca

Another charming animated offering from Pixar, "Luca" is a coming-of-age film following two teenage sea monsters as they take on their human forms in order to experience the world above water. The film is set in the fictional town of Portorosso along the Italian Riviera — possibly a reference to the Italian-set Studio Ghibli movie "Porco Rosso" (via DisInsider) — and bearing some similarities to the real-life town of Monterosso in Northern Italy. In fact, many of the landscapes shown throughout the film are inspired by the vibrant and colorful seaside regions of Liguria, and director Enrico Casarosa pulled inspiration from his own childhood in Genoa, Italy as well (via Cinematografo). 

Luca and Alberto run around the picturesque coastline trying to soak in as much Italian culture as possible — accurately depicted as eating gelato, swimming, riding Vespas, trying pesto, and cliff jumping. The exquisitely animated deep emerald blues of the water and the beautiful detail in the village's cobbled streets encompass what it feels like to explore the Italian Riviera, and the warmth radiates throughout "Luca."

12. Journey to Italy

"Journey to Italy" is the 1954 story of Katherine (Ingrid Bergman) and Alex Joyce (George Sanders) who are attempting to rectify their failing marriage with a trip to Italy. As the couple goes their separate ways to explore the southern part of the country, viewers receive appearances of Naples, Vesuvius, Pompeii, and Capri. Filmed across the country, director Roberto Rossellini showcases a number of key landmarks in this romantic melodrama, including the Archeology Museum in Naples, the Temple of Apollo, the Phlegraean Fields, and the town of Maiori along the Amalfi Coast.

Despite its initial negative response, many have grown to consider this to be Rossellini's masterpiece, and the "wellspring of the French New Wave" with influential directors such as Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut singing its praises (via The Guardian). Also called "Voyage to Italy," what stands out so much about the story is its lack of plot and emphasis on mood and feeling. New York Times critic, A.O. Scott, points to the director's way of "dissolving narrative into atmosphere," placing the majority of its storyline within the "unspoken." With the focus on the stunning views of so many renowned landmarks, "Journey to Italy" does an excellent job depicting the drama of the country.

13. Only You

Directed by Norman Jewison, "Only You" is a 1994 romantic comedy starring Marisa Tomei as Faith Corvatch — a woman who is fixated on the idea of a soulmate. After consulting a ouija board in her childhood, Faith is convinced that her soulmate will be called "Damon Bradley," and on the day of her wedding, she impulsively travels to Venice to find him. While in Venice, she meets and falls for Peter Wright (Robert Downey Jr.), but can she forget her supposed destiny to give someone else a chance?

Italy often becomes the destination of choice for some soul-searching, and "Only You" utilizes romantic locations in Venice, Rome, Tuscany, and Positano, with landmarks such as the Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere, Piazza Navona, and the Mouth of Truth featuring prominently in the film. While it was critically panned, "Only You" is still an enjoyable watch, touching on the theme of fate and the idea that there is one true love out there for everyone — it just might not be who you expect.

14. Made in Italy

A relatively new addition to the list of Italian-set movies, 2020's "Made in Italy" follows Robert Foster (Liam Neeson) and his son Jack (Micheál Richardson) as they attempt to fix up and sell an old family villa in Tuscany. As well as the beautifully authentic Tuscan views, there is another layer of realism as Richardson and Neeson are father and son in real-life. Speaking about working with his son to Radio Times, Neeson mentioned how it helped with some of the more emotional scenes, saying, "I knew we'd be able to do that with ease because it was so close to us." 

Written and directed by James D'Arcy, much of the filming takes place across a variety of idyllic Tuscan provinces. The main villa is called Villa Fontanelle in Montalcino, Italy, and can actually be rented out for people looking to visit the Tuscan countryside. "Made in Italy" does an excellent job of capturing Tuscany's winding streets lined with cypress trees and vineyards, as well as the hundreds of olive trees and cobblestone streets of Monticchiello. The film might not have won over critics, but the strong performances and gorgeous setting make it worth a watch.

15. Tea with Mussolini

"Tea with Mussolini" is set during Benito Mussolini's dictatorship — which marked a dark time for the country. This somewhat autobiographical story centers on Luca (played by Charlie Lucas and later, Baird Wallace) — an orphan that gets brought into the world of the "Scorpioni" in order for them to teach him about life and art, with the aim of crafting him into a better man. The Scorpioni was a real-life group of wealthy elderly English women in Florence during the '30s and '40s, and the role of Luca was inspired by director Franco Zeffirelli's real childhood spent with the women (via The Florentine).

With a starry cast that includes legends such as Cher, Judi Dench, and Maggie Smith, this comedy-drama showcases the art and culture of historic Italy — and is a testament to the influential women who shaped Zeffirelli and the city of Florence. The film was shot all throughout Florence, Tuscany, and San Gimignano with specific filming locations in the Piazza del Duomo, the Uffizi Gallery, Piazza Pecori, and Piazza della Cisterna. While "Tea with Mussolini" certainly contains political themes and discussion of the war taking place in Italy, it examines this through a more light-hearted lens, exploring the cultural world of the well-connected expatriate aristocrats.

16. It Started in Naples

"It Started in Naples" is a '60s romantic comedy starring Clark Gable and 25-year-old Sophia Loren. It was to be the last film starring the Hollywood legend to be released in his lifetime, as he passed away just 3 months after its release (per The New York Times). The story centers on the two stars as they fight for their right to raise Nando (Carlo Angeletti) — a sharp and quick-witted 9-year-old who just lost both of his parents. Already a huge star when "It Started in Naples" was released, Italian actress Sophia Loren shines as a symbol of the country — a legacy she maintained throughout her career, and is still considered one of the greatest stars of the Golden Age of cinema.

Directed by Melville Shavelson, "It Started in Naples" is a vibrant and colorful trip along the coast of southern Italy, stopping at some recognizable spots in Capri, Rome, and — of course — Naples, with notable scenes shot in the legendary Blue Grotto, the Bay of Naples, and Napoli Centrale station. Although the Oscar-nominated film was not a huge hit with critics following its release, it has since grown to be considered a classic by many film buffs — thanks to Sophia Loren's charming, yet risqué performance as a cabaret singer.

17. Cinema Paradiso

"Cinema Paradiso" follows a fictional famous film director, Salvatore (Salvatore Cascio), as he takes a nostalgic look back at his childhood and what inspired his passion for filmmaking, after learning about the death of his mentor. Salvatore spent most of his childhood at the titular movie theater in town and ends up bonding with the middle-aged projectionist, Alfredo — who opens his eyes to the beautiful world of narrative film. "Cinema Paradiso" is a must-see for movie fans, as the story focuses heavily on the amazing power of cinema in escapism.

"Cinema Paradiso" largely takes place in '80s Sicily, featuring appearances of Bagheria and Cefalú. However, director Giuseppe Tornatore also utilized Piazza Umberto, Piazza Venezia, Chiesa di Maria Santissima Assunta, and Porta Pescara as key filming locations. Placing 27th on Empire's list of the 100 best films of world cinema, "Cinema Paradiso" is frequently called one of the greatest films of all time, and it was awarded an Oscar for best foreign language film. Considered by many as a prime example of "nostalgic postmodernism" (per Medium), the movie's touching portrayal of the universal joy found in something as simple as the movie theater is bound to bring tears of joy to any viewer.

18. I Am Love

"I Am Love" is a 2009 romantic drama that follows the collapsing empire of one of the most affluent and established families in Milan. The story focuses on Emma (Tilda Swinton), who lives an opulent lifestyle after joining the Recchia family, but still finds herself unfulfilled. She ultimately finds love in the arms of a chef, amidst the impending shift in power following the death of the family patriarch. With its artful and symbolic cinematography and lavish Italian locations, it's no surprise that "I Am Love" comes from the same director as "Call Me by Your Name," Luca Guadagnino.

The Recchia family was inspired by the Castellini Paldissera family, who own a luxury Lombardian textile company in Milan (via The Wall Street Journal). Considered Italian royalty, the Castellini Baldisseras fall under the category of "bourgeoise," meaning they rely on a more materialistic representation of success. "I Am Love" was primarily filmed around Milan and features filming locations in San Remo, Castel Vittorio, Piazza del Duomo, and the textile warehouse used by the real Castellini Baldissera family. The Recchia family estate was filmed at the Villa Necchi Campiglio, which now stands as a museum. This film touches on the idea of forbidden love as well as the importance of a class system and provides viewers with a peek into the influential world of old Milanese money.

19. Il Postino

This 1994 film centers on a humble postman named Mario Ruoppolo (Massimo Troisi) who befriends world-famous poet, Pablo Neruda (Philippe Noiret) when he moves to town. Although Mario is far too reserved to tell a local woman — named Beatrice (Maria Grazia Cucinotta) — of his love for her, Pablo soon teaches him about the power of expressing yourself through poetry. Boasting a 94% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes, "Il Postino" was an overwhelming success, earning multiple accolades including a BAFTA and an Academy Award.

"Il Postino" takes place in the Gulf of Naples on a serene island called Procida. Procida is known for its pastel array of houses lining the coast, with views reminiscent of Cinque Terre. The film was also shot at locations around Salina in Sicily, as well as Pantelleria, and the harbor of Corricella. In this charming film, director Michael Radford does a great job of depicting the untouched calmness of the small Italian island, transporting you to the quaint setting as viewers watch a man gain a new-found love for poetry and a renewed sense of self.

20. The Talented Mr. Ripley

"The Talented Mr. Ripley" is a dark psychological thriller adapted from Patricia Highsmith's 1955 novel of the same name. The story centers on Tom Ripley (Matt Damon), a master impersonator who successfully lies his way through life. While pretending to be a Princeton graduate, he is approached and offered money to travel to Italy in order to retrieve rich kid Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law). While on his mission, Ripley forms an infatuation with Greenleaf and becomes obsessed with taking his exorbitant lifestyle for himself. In this deliciously sinister thriller, viewers will learn the dangerous lengths Ripley will go to keep his secrets.

"The Talented Mr. Ripley" is filmed largely on location in Positano, Ischia, Procida, Anzio, Palermo, Rome, and Venice. Some specific filming locations include Piazza Navona, the Spanish Steps, Caffè Florian, Capitoline Hill, and Galleria Principe di Napoli. With a stacked cast of heavy hitters like Gwyneth Paltrow and Cate Blanchett alongside Law and Damon, it's no surprise that the film was a commercial success upon release and was nominated for five Academy Awards.